Special evacuation flights for Indians stranded in the US due to the global travel restrictions put in place to contain the coronavirus pandemic are most likely to begin from San Francisco this week, according to officials.
While no exact dates have been announced, the flights could take off from San Francisco, New York, Chicago and Washington DC, the officials said.
Given that a large number of Indian students and visitors are stranded in the US because of the strict travel restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic, more flights are likely to be scheduled in coming weeks.
Community leaders have welcomed the move of the Indian government which on Monday announced that special flights facilitating the return of Indian nationals stranded abroad on compelling grounds would begin in a phased manner from May 7.
The Indian embassy and its consulates in the US last week started preparing a list of Indians planning to travel back home. The list is being prepared through an online registration form.
'This is for the first time in my memory that such an evacuation effort is being carried out by the Indian government for its citizens in the US,' the Jaipur Foot USA Chairman,Mr. Prem Bhandari, said as he thanked the Prime Minister for the efforts.
Mr. Bhandari, who had been receiving calls from various stranded Indians, sometimes from students seeking accommodation, or visitors who had run out of medicine, last week wrote a letter to the Foreign Secretary, Mr Harsh Vardhan Shringla, and the Civil Aviation Secretary, Mr. Pradeep Singh Kharola, bringing to their attention the grave situation.
In the letter, he said: 'There are a large number of students who have run out of money. They don't have a place to stay. What is more worrisome is the fact that this uncertainty is having a toll on their mental and physical health.'
A large number of Indian visitors, in particular senior citizens and parents of those working in the US, have run out of their essential medicines.
To get them medicine, even with a traveller's health insurance, is often not affordable. 'The evacuation flight is the need of the hour. This shows how much this government cares for its citizens,' Mr. Bhandari said.