Calcutta has got only one international flight in the next phase of the project to bring back Indians stuck abroad because of the lockdown, though hundreds of people from Bengal are stranded across the globe and are desperate to return home.
The civil aviation ministry has issued a list of flights Air India will operate till June 13 to bring back stranded Indians from various countries. On the list there is only one flight allotted to Calcutta, which will arrive from Yangon in Myanmar on May 29.
The same day, a flight each from Mumbai and Bhubaneswar will land in Calcutta, bringing stranded Indians who will reach those two cities from abroad. “People from Bengal who are stranded in Mumbai and Bhubaneswar will not be allowed to board these flights,” said an official of the civil aviation ministry.
Metro has reported that Calcutta had no flights in the first phase of the Vande Bharat mission to bring back stranded Indians. In the second phase, a flight from Dhaka landed in Calcutta on May 18 with 169 Indians stranded in Bangladesh.
In what ministry officials called an “extended” second phase, most flights from cities around the world are being brought to Delhi and Mumbai and from there passengers are being connected to other Indian cities.
“We had expected a few more flights for Calcutta. At least connecting flights from Delhi and Mumbai would have helped. But there is only one international flight, from Yangon, and two connecting ones from Mumbai and Bhubaneswar,” said a state government official.
Calcuttans stuck abroad are desperately contacting Indian missions and the civil aviation ministry but are being asked to wait.
“We understand your concerns. Please note that these evacuation flights are planned in phased manner, hence each and every applicant or country may not be covered initially,' stated a reply from the external affairs ministry to Vikram Tejwani from Calcutta, who is stranded in the UK. 'You are advised to remain in contact with our embassy/consulate for further information.”
Calcutta Mubashik Aslam, who studies at Tver State Medical University in Russia, said: “The Covid-19 situation in Russia is bad. All my friends in the hostel, who are from Delhi, Mumbai, Ahmedabad and other cities, have been booked on Air India flights and I will be stuck here.”
“The latest list of flights is dynamic and more cities will be added as the demand is growing,” said an official.