India intensifies evacuations from Ukraine: 4 Ministers to oversee Op Ganga

Amid continuous air attacks and shelling in civilian areas in the war-hit Ukraine, which led to the death of an Indian medical student on Tuesday, the Narendra Modi government has intensified its evacuation efforts to bring back stranded Indian nationals as the war enters the sixth day.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has sent Union Ministers Hardeep Puri, Jyotiraditya Scindia, Kiren Rijiju and Gen VK Singh who have stationed themselves in Hungary, Romania and Moldova, Slovenia and Poland respectively. These Union ministers will coordinate with officials present to bring stranded citizens home.

Of the four ministers sent to Ukraine, Union minister Hardeep Singh Puri will be in-charge of evacuation efforts in Hungary, civil aviation minister Jyotiraditya Scindia will oversee the mission in Romania and Moldova. Law minister Kiren Rijiju will expedite the trans-border movement from Slovenia and roads and transport minister General VK Singh is in-charge of evacuation from Poland.

The Indian embassies in countries like Poland have been arranging buses for the students to safely reach the border, this after heavy diplomatic lifting between the two countries.

The Indian Air Force has also been asked to deploy C-17 aircraft to boost evacuation efforts. The C-17 aircraft can carry 336 passengers and was used during the evacuation in Afghanistan last year. Besides airlifting the Indian nationals, the IAF aircraft will also be used to carry humanitarian aid to the war-hit country.

Indian Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Arindam Bagchi, on Monday, said that out of the nearly 20,000 Indian students, over 1,400 have been evacuated so far, while nearly 8,000 had heeded the travel advisories and exited the country before the invasion began.

India’s first travel advisory urging citizens to leave Ukraine was issued on February 15, nine days before Russia’s military advance into the Eastern European country.

While it has been difficult to ensure the seamless movement of citizens from the eastern parts of Ukraine to the western borders, Indian officials are coordinating efforts with Ukrainian authorities to run special trains amid intense fighting. At the border, stranded foreigners are facing long waiting periods amid sub-zero temperatures, and the Indian nationals have been advised to not travel directly to the border checkpoints without coordinating with Indian authorities.

Once out of Ukraine, the Indian students are safely flying back to India, and the flight expenses are being covered by the Indian government.

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