NEW DELHI: The world’s largest-ever repatriation exercise, Vande Bharat Mission, will expand its wings in the third phase which begins after June 13. For the first time in this exercise, India will send flights to Africa to fly back its citizens from there.
Till now almost 3.5 lakh Indians abroad have registered to return home on compelling grounds and over a lakh have been brought back.
“The third phase covers more sectors and will create additional hubs in remote regions. About 38,000 persons are expected to be repatriated under this phase on 337 international flights from 31 countries, including 54 from US, 24 from Canada, 11 flights from 6 African countries — Nigeria, Egypt, South Africa, Kenya, Seychelles and Mauritius,” said ministry of external affairs (MEA) spokesperson Anurag Srivastava.
Meanwhile, aviation minister H S Puri on Thursday laid to rest fears that Air India fares for the Vande Bharat flights are high. On the contrary, he said, AI fares are lower than repatriation flights organised by other countries/airlines.
“Some people have raised concern about rates being charged by AI for special Vande Bharat flights. While rates being charged are not normal commercial rates, they are reasonable when compared to evacuation flights of other countries on same sectors,” he said in a series of tweets.

For instance, AI is charging Rs 1.03 lakh for a Delhi-US (Houston) economy class flight whereas the charter rate for evacuation flights organised by other countries (same route) was Rs 3 lakh. Similarly, Delhi-Toronto on AI is Rs 1.07 lakh, versus 1.62 lakh (on evacuation flights by other countries); Delhi-Vancouver on AI is Rs 1.07 lakh versus Rs 1.84 lakh and Delhi-Israel on AI is Rs 51,938 versus Rs 82,500 by others, the minister tweeted.
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“Economy fare paid by travellers for evacuation flights organised by concerned embassy (US) from India was Rs 3 lakhs for Houston. Indians pay Rs 1.03 lakh on India-US sector under Vande Bharat mission which is nearly one third. Similarly, travellers paid Rs 1.62 lakh to Toronto and Rs 1.84 lakh to Vancouver for evacuation flights organised from India by the concerned high commission (Canada). Our citizens pay Rs 1.07 lakhs between India and Canada on Vande Bharat flights. The difference is stark,” Puri tweeted.

“Travellers to Tel Aviv paid Rs 82,500 for their evacuation flights organised by the concerned embassy (Israel) between Delhi and Tel Aviv while Indian citizens pay Rs 51,938 to fly between the two destinations. Very clearly, rates being charged by AI for Vande Bharat are reasonable,” Puri added.

The MEA spokesperson said India is currently in phase-II of Vande Bharat that will continue till June 13.
“After the commencement of Vande Bharat Mission from May 7, a total of 454 flights, including foreign carriers, have brought back stranded Indians. As of date, 1,07,123 Indians have returned. These include 17,485 migrant workers; 11,511 students and 8,633 professionals. More than 32,000 Indians have returned through land border immigration checkpoints from Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh. A total of 3,48,565 persons have registered their requests with our missions for repatriation to India on compelling grounds,” the spokesperson said on Thursday.
Now, Indians can also return on chartered flights.

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