6.15 million people used Vande Bharat Mission till phase 10

10 months on, mission to help Indians stranded overseas remains operational

Diaspora

April 3, 2021

/ By / New Delhi

6.15 million people used Vande Bharat Mission till phase 10

Vande Bharat Mission was launched by Indian government on May 6, 2020

Vande Bharat Mission, operating in Phase 10, has managed to facilitate more than 6.15 million people through different modes of transport under this mission as of March 4,2021.

It has been almost an year when Vande Bharat Mission was launched on May 6,2020 to help Indians stranded in different parts of the world due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the ensuing shut down of international travel.

In the initial phases, the stranded passengers were selected on the basis of the urgency of their situation while preference was given to people needing medical help, pregnant women, travelers with expired visas and migrant workers stranded without jobs.

As a part of Phase 1 of mission, more than 60 non-scheduled commercial Air India flights had operated to bring back 15,000thousand citizens stranded in 12 countries. India had also dispatched four Naval ships as part of the first phase of Vande Bharat Mission to bring back Indian citizens from Maldives and UAE under the name Operation Samudra Setu.

In the ongoing 10th phase of the VBM, more than 1,350 international flights are scheduled to be operated from 28 countries, which will facilitate an estimated 2,60,000 people. Out of these, around 920 flights are from GCC countries, around 150 from US and Canada, 120 from UK and Europe, around 100 from Southeast Asia, and around 50 from India’s neighbouring countries, according to Ministry of External Affairs.

In accordance with the mission, India has also signed Air Bubble Agreements, a bilateral agreement signed between countries to ease travel amid severe restrictions imposed on international travel due to the pandemic, with 27 countries. These countries include India’s immediate neighbours like Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives and Nepal as well as several Gulf and Middle Eastern countries such as Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, United Arab Emirates and Iraq. In addition, the agreements also cover numerous nations in Europe such as France, Germany, United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Russia and Ukraine or Canada and the United States in North America. Several African nations like Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, Seychelles and Tanzania as well as Japan and the central Asian republic of Uzbekistan.

After a first few months when only  Air India and its subsidiary Air India Express carried out these rescue missions, private Indian airlines like Indigo, Vistara, SpiceJet and GoAir have also been flying under the mission.

Impact on aviation industry

Though Vande Bharat Mission allowed airlines in India to earn some revenues, the pandemic has hit them extremely hard as the civil aviation ministry has maintained a ban on scheduled international flights to and from India, depriving not just the Indian carriers but also numerous foreign airlines of key revenues in these adverse times. Even though many passengers on Vande Bharat Mission have complained of the fares being too high, as much as 50 pc more than on normal flights on key international routes, airlines have continued to bleed heavily with the ban on flying internationally as well as the continuing travel restrictions in place in many countries, including India.

During the fiscal year 2020-2021, Indian airlines reported net losses of INR 127 billion, says a report by ICRA, a credit rating agency.

Even though travel restrictions, at least domestically in India, have started to ease after almost a year, the profitability of private airlines remains adversely impacted due to lower revenues and high fixed costs.

The report also mentioned that Indian airlines would require additional funding to the tune of INR 370 billion over 2021 to 2023 to recover from losses and debt, adding that the agency maintains a negative credit outlook on the Indian airline industry.

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