New Delhi, Sep 17: Over 11,600 Indians abroad have been infected with coronavirus as per details available with the country’s missions, the government informed the Rajya Sabha on Thursday.
In a written reply to a question in the Upper House, Minister of State for External Affairs V Muraleedharan said Indian Missions arranged for the welfare of Indian nationals, where required, including through the Indian community associations.
In some cases, arrangements were also made for screening and testing of stranded Indian nationals to enable them to return to India, as also for movement of patients via air ambulances for their treatment in India, he said.
“As on September 10, 2020, as per the details available with Indian missions, the total number of Indian citizens abroad infected with coronavirus stood at 11,616,” he said.
Out of the 11,616 Indians infected with COVID-19 abroad, 4,618 were in Singapore, 2,639 in Bahrain, 1,769 in Kuwait, 907 in Oman, 420 in Qatar, 308 in Iran, 238 in the UAE and 192 in Italy.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, India has supported 150 countries with medicines and medical equipment, including around 80 countries under grants-in-aid, he said.
In response to another question on the Vande Bharat Mission, Muraleedharan said the mission was launched on May 7, 2020 and more than 14,12,835 Indian nationals have returned to India via air, land and sea.
To another question on the number of Indians abroad at present who have registered with the Vande Bharat Mission to return to India but have still not returned, Muraleedharan said according to the information available with the ministry, 4,80,738 Indians who have registered on MEA’s online ‘REPAT’ portal have not yet returned.
“The actual number of people wishing to return may differ. As per information provided by the missions, many people who have registered may no longer wish to return. Moreover, as per latest guidelines of Government of India, passengers are no longer required to register for Air Bubble flights,” he said.
“Most people with compelling reasons have safely returned to their homes by air, land and sea. The exercise to bring back stranded Indians is ongoing under the Vande Bharat Mission,” he said.
“Our Missions have assisted more than 62,000 Indian nationals in distress involving an expenditure of nearly Rs 22.5 crores from the Indian Community Welfare Fund,” he said.
Responding to a separate question on the number of students and workers brought back under the Vande Bharat Mission, Muraleedharan said 56,630 students and 3,08,099 workers had been brought back.
Asked about the details of the facilities being given to the workers brought back to the country, the minister said, “With the aim of making the best of our skilled workforce returning to the country due to the ongoing pandemic, the Government of India launched an initiative SWADES (Skilled Workers Arrival Database for Employment Support) to conduct a skill mapping exercise of the returning citizens under the Vande Bharat Mission.”
SWADES, a joint initiative of the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, the Ministry of Civil Aviation and the Ministry of External Affairs, is aimed to create a database of qualified citizens based on their skill sets and experience to tap into and fulfil demand of Indian and foreign companies.
This was done to facilitate reintegration of migrant workers into the labour market and promote effective employment opportunities, he said.
“For facilitating employment opportunities, details of SWADES registrations have been integrated with Skill India’s ASEEM (Aatmanirbhar Skilled Employee Employer Mapping) portal which was launched on July 10, 2020,” he said.
All data regarding Indians returning under Vande Bharat Mission was also shared with relevant state governments, on a real time basis, he said.
Muraleedharan also asserted that there was no delay in bringing back workers who were stuck in various countries in the Gulf region.
He said priority has been given to countries in the Gulf region for scheduling flights to bring back the stranded workers under the Vande Bharat Mission.
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