New Delhi: Modi government has intensified its evacuation efforts to bring back stranded Indian nationals as the war in Ukraine enters the second week.
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 is put in charge of evacuation efforts in Hungary; civil aviation minister Jyotiraditya Scindia is overseeing the mission in Romania and Moldova. Law minister Kiren Rijiju is expediting 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.
A total of 17000 Indian nationals have left Ukraine since the advisories were issued and flights under Operation Ganga have been increased to facilitate the evacuation of remaining students stranded in Ukraine. The students who left Ukraine also included some Indians who had not registered with the Embassy of India in Kyiv previously.
Union Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya M Scindia on Thursday said that 3,726 Indians will be brought back home today by 19 flights from Bucharest, Suceava, Kosice, Budapest, and Rzeszow. India has also pressed in American C-17 Globemasters and IL-76 transport aircraft which are the most capable of flying to long distances with around 400 passengers.
On February 26, India announced its evacuation plan ‘Operation Ganga’ to bring back all the stranded Indian nationals to safety. As part of Operations Ganga, 46 flights up until March 8 have been scheduled.
Meanwhile, India has rejected claims by both Russia and Ukraine that Indian students are being held hostage in the besieged city of Kharkiv, and said it has requested the support of Ukrainian authorities in arranging special trains for taking them out from the city and neighboring areas.
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.
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. Once out of Ukraine, the Indian students are safely flying back to India, and the flight expenses are being covered by the Indian government.