V. Muraleedharan, India’s Minister of State for External and Parliamentary Affairs
V. Muraleedharan, India’s Minister of State for External and Parliamentary Affairs Image Credit: Twitter

Dubai: Indian diplomatic missions will help arrange additional quarantine centres and services of Indian healthcare workers to support the efforts of the UAE and other Gulf countries in their fight to contain the coronavirus pandemic, an Indian minister said on Friday.

India’s Minister of State for External Affairs V. Muraleedharan said repatriation of Indians stranded abroad can be considered only from May and on a priority basis.

The junior foreign minister was replying to questions from Indian expats from various parts of the world in a one-hour live show on Indian channel Manorama TV.

Offering all possible support from the Indian government to the Gulf countries where millions of Indian expats live, the minister said the Indian missions, with the approval from the local governments, will help arrange quarantine centres other than the ones set up by the respective governments.

The possibility of taking over the buildings of Indian associations, schools and other institutions for this purpose is being explored, he said.

The missions will also assist the local governments by arranging the service of Indian healthcare workers for community work with the approval of the local health authorities, he said.

Indian missions will also work with community volunteers and associations to provide food and medicines for labourers and others requiring such assistance.

If need arises, India is also ready to supply necessary medicines, he added.

No mass repatriation possible

Addressing concerns of stranded Indians across the world, Muraleedharan clarified that their repatriation can be considered only from May. Chartered flights by those who can afford it will also be considered only then.

Denying the possibility of a mass repatriation of overseas Indians, the minister said the government can only allow repatriation of stranded Indians on priority basis since arranging quarantining facilities for tens of thousands of Indians returning home is not practically possible.

Elderly citizens, pregnant women and those requiring treatment back home will be given priority, he said.

The Ministry of External Affairs intends to request the Civil Aviation Ministry to take the necessary steps for the repatriation services, he said.

Muraleedharan urged overseas Indians to stay put wherever they are and follow the directives of the local governments for their own safety.

He urged Indians from Gulf countries not to worry about visa expiry as the local governments have already relaxed visa rules and announced exemption of fines.

The minister pointed out that the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had spoken with the leaders of all Gulf countries.

In reply to a question from Dubai regarding the need for a rehabilitation package for Indian expats returning home after losing jobs, he said the central government will look into extending the ambit of the care packages it has already announced as and when the need arises.

He added that the central government, in consultation with state governments, is also making necessary arrangements for the repatriation of the mortal remains of Indians dying abroad due to reasons other than COVID-19.