"We Are Safe Now": Navy Warship Brings Back 698 Indians From Maldives

The Indian nationals were charged USD 40 as the evacuation service charge, the High Commission of India in the Maldives said in a statement.

A total of 698 Indian nationals have been brought back in the warship.

New Delhi:

INS Jalashwa, the Navy warship sent to Maldives to bring back stranded Indians, arrived in India this morning. With the completion of the voyage, the Navy has successfully brought back a total of 698 Indian nationals who were stranded in the scenic island nation due to the COVID-19-linked travel restrictions.

Nineteen pregnant women were among those on board the ship that started the journey from the Maldivian capital Male on May 8. The ship reached Kerala's Kochi at 9:30 am.

"The group comprises 595 males and 103 females. Of this, 14 are children below 10 years and 19 pregnant women.Though majority of passengers are from Kerala and Tamil Nadu there are repatriates of 18 other states/UTs also in the ship," Cochin Port said in a statement.

"I would like to thank the Indian government and the Navy for bringing us back to the country. I am sure those stranded in Maldives will come back soon," said a passenger.

The passengers also thanked the Navy for taking good care of them during the journey.

"We are safe now. We had a nice experience. The staff was very friendly. They took good care of us," said another passenger.

The Indian nationals were charged $ 40 as the repatriation service charge, the High Commission of India in the Maldives said in a statement.

The Navy had made special preparations for the massive programme under the Vande Bharat mission, claimed to be the biggest repatriation exercise ever.

Special emphasis were given to COVID-19 protocols at emigration counters in Maldives as videos shared by the Indian diplomatic mission showed. Indian nationals were seen standing at an arm's distance and wearing face masks as they waited for their turn while officials at the counter were seen with protective suits. In another video, people are seen sitting two rows apart in a bus that will take them to the warship.

The repatriation process is a part of the Navy's Operation Samudra Setu and is progressing in close coordination with the Ministries of Defence, External Affairs, Home Affairs, Health and various other agencies of the Centre and state governments.

Another warship, INS Magar, is expected to arrive at Male today to repatriate more stranded Indians. Around 4,000 of the 27,000 Indians living in the Maldives have registered to be taken home.

The naval efforts are part of an initial operation to repatriate almost 15,000 Indians from 12 countries.

The repatriation process is expected to be expanded in the next few weeks to include more stranded citizens in other European and Southeast Asian nations, local media reported.

With inputs from agencies