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International Web–Symposium


Vande Bharat as World’s largest Diaspora Evacuation Mission under COVID-19: Comparing Experiences of Different Home Countries

Jointly organsied by

The Organisation for Diaspora Initiatives (ODI India),

Centre for Diaspora Studies (CDS), Central University of Gujarat (CUG) 


Diaspora and International Migration Programme (DIMP), CAS-School of International Studies,

Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), New Delhi


22 August 2020

 from: 4:30 PM to 7:30 PM (Indian Standard Time)

Registration Link: shorturl.at/inpxF

(Registration closes by 5:00 PM on 21 August 2020, Indian Standard Time )


Convenor: Dr Debjani Naskar, Former Student, JNU and Media Coordinator, NDMJ-NCDHR

ODI Series Coordinators: Dr. Sushmita Rajwar, Assistant Professor, University of Delhi &

Ms Aarshi Dua, Doctoral Fellow, CAS-School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University

Media coordinators: Mr. Samir Bhattacharyya, CAS-School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University &

Ms. Sarita Nandmehar, School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University




First Session -Inaugural

(4:30 PM- 5:20 PM)

4:30 PM- 4:35 PM

(5 Minutes)

Introduction and Moderator

Prof. Ajay Dubey,

Chair, CAS-School of International Studies, JNU & President, ODI, New Delhi

4:35 PM- 4:40 PM

(5 Minutes)

Theme Introduction


Dr. Sushmita Rajwar

ODI Webinar Series Coordinator & Faculty Member University of Delhi

4:40 PM – 4:45 PM

(5 Minutes)

Special Remarks

Dr. Atanu Mohapatra

Chairperson, Centre for Diaspora Studies, Central University of Gujarat

4:45 PM- 4:55 PM

(10 Minutes)

Distinguished Guest

Shri Shyam Parande,


Antar Rashtriya Sahyog Parishad (ARSP), New Delhi.

4:55 PM – 5:05PM

(10 Minutes)

Guest of Honour

H. E. Amb. Pradeep Kumar Rawat

Ambassador of India to Indonesia

5:05 PM- 5:15 PM

(10 Minutes)

Chief Guest

Prof.  Rama Shanker Dubey

Hon’ble Vice-Chancellor, Central University of Gujarat

5:15 PM-5:20PM

(5 Minutes)


Vote of Thanks

Dr. Debjani Naskar

Symposium Convenor and Media Coordinator, NDMJ-NCDHR

Second Session

(5:20PM- 6:25 PM)

5:20 PM-5:25 PM

(5 Minutes)



Prof. Kavita Sharma

Immediate Past President, South Asian University, & Chairperson, ODI International

5:25 PM-5:32 PM

(7 Minutes)


Speaker 1


Ms. Anjana Sankar

Senior Journalist, Khaleej Times, UAE

5:32PM - 5:39 PM

(7 Minutes)


Speaker 2

Prof. Santishree Pandit

Department of Politics &Public-Administration, Savitribai Phule Pune University, Maharashtra

5:39PM – 5:46PM

(7 Minutes)


Speaker 3

Prof. Anand Singh

University of KwaZulu Natal, Howard College Campus, Durban, South Africa

5:46PM – 5:53 PM

(7 Minutes)


Speaker 4


Dr. Raymond LAU Kwun-Sun

Department of History, Hong Kong Baptist University, Hong Kong

5:53 PM- 6:00 PM

(7 Minutes)

Speaker 5


Mr. A. Ravendiran Arjunan

Secretary General, GOPIO, International

6:00 PM- 6:07 PM

(7 Minutes)

Speaker 6


Dr. Ranit Chatterjee

Kyoto University, & Co- Founder of Resilience Innovation Knowledge Academy, (Rika)

6:07 PM- 6:14PM

(7 Minutes)

Speaker 7

Dr. Jyoti Tyagi

Associate Editor, Diaspora Studies, (Routledge), Dusseldorf, Germany

Discussion and Q/A (6:14 PM-6:25 PM)

Discussant:  Dr. Gautam K Jha, Assistant Prof. , SIS, Jawaharlal Nehru University

Third Session

(6:25 PM-7:30 PM) 

6:25 PM-6:30 PM

(5 Minutes)


Prof. Aparajita Biswas

Mumbai University & Vice-President ODI India

6:30 PM-6:37 PM

(7 Minutes)

Speaker 1

Prof Manish,

Dean School of International Studies, Central University of Gujarat

6:37 PM-6:44 PM

(7 Minutes)

Speaker 2

Dr. Mrinmoyee Bhattacharya

Florida State University

6:44 PM-6:51 PM

(7 Minutes)

Speaker 3

Dr. Philipp Gieg

Post Doc. Researcher, University of Würzburg, Germany

6:51 PM-6:58 PM

(7 Minutes)

Speaker 4

Dr. Ghazali Bello Abubakar

Assistant Prof., Sokoto State University, Nigeria

6:58 PM- 7:05PM

(7 Minutes)

Speaker 5

Dr. Smita Tiwary

Former Research Fellow, Indian Council of World Affairs (ICWA)

7:05PM-7:12 PM

(7 Minutes)

Speaker 6

Dr. Ramakrushna Pradhan

Assistant Prof., International Studies, Fakir Mohan University, Odisha

Discussion and Q/A (7:12 PM-7:25 PM)

Discussant:  Dr. Rajneesh Gupta, Centre for Diaspora Studies, Central University of Gujarat; & Founding Treasurer, ODI India

7:25 PM-7:30 PM

(5 Minutes)

Vote of Thanks

Mr. BK Pandey,

Secretary-General, ODI India,

 PhD Scholar, CAS- JNU.



Vande Bharat as World’s largest Diaspora Evacuation Mission under COVID-19: Comparing Experiences of Different Home Countries


As the COVID-19 crisis deepens, severe implications can also be felt on global security, economy, environment, human rights and cross-dimensional issues. With the outbreak of Corona across the globe, hundreds of Indians were stranded in different parts of the world trying to get back home. Large number of Indian students were stranded in Italy, Malaysia, the United Kingdom, United States and the Philippines as universities across the globe were shut down and because of travel disruptions due to the fast-spreading COVID-19 pandemic.

This has been the period of uncertainty for Indians stuck overseas, especially for those living on the economic margins, students and blue-collar workers. During this crucial period various diaspora organisations in different parts of the world played a significant role to support the Indian nationals in distress. For example, Indian American hoteliers, in US, came forward to offer free food and accommodation to the Indian students and tourists at several towns. Asian American Hotel Owners Association (AAHOA), also worked in close collaboration with Indian embassy and consulates to help students and tourists stuck in various cities. Asian American Storeowners Association (AASOA) and volunteer group Sewa International also joined in their philanthropic initiative. Sewa International also worked as a 24X7 helpline to help connect stranded Indians with community organisations. Overseas Malayali Association (ORMA) also started with a helpline to help stranded Indian migrants across the UAE. In UK, National Indian Students and Alumni Union in UK (NISAU), came forward in coordination with the Indian high commission to help students stuck in remote places to stay connected.

COVID-19-hit the private sector in UAE too, which led the employer of the private sector to send their employees on paid or unpaid leave. Thus, a large number of Indian nationals working in the private sector in the Gulf corridor became jobless, and stranded in their host countries, without any source of income. In April end, Indian missions opened the online registration for the expatriates who wish to return to India after getting stuck amidst the lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic. Over 1,50,000 Indians from UAE, only applied through the online registration process to the Indian missions in Dubai along with many other Indians across the globe.  Meanwhile, Norka (The Non Resident Keralites Affairs) said it has received a total of 398,000 applications from Keralites across the globe. According to the Department of Non-Resident Keralites Affairs (NORKA Roots), over 61,000 of these returnees have cited job losses as the reason for their return.

Looking at the grave situation, Indian government undertook the biggest evacuation process, and named it as Vande Bharat Mission (VBM). VBM initiative aimed to bring back stranded Indians safely to India. The VBM mission commenced on 7th May, 2020, and by July it already helped more than 5 lakh Indian national’s safe return to India. According to MEA reports, in the initial two months only 5, 03,990 stranded Indians from 137 countries, returned back to India. A large number of stranded Indians were from the state of Kerala, followed by UP, Bihar, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh. Maximum number of stranded Indians returned via VBM flights from UAE, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Oman, USA and Nepal.

The process of VBM involved 860 Air India Flights, 1256 charter flights and 8 Naval ships. From Nepal, most of the stranded Indian returned through land borders check posts. This mission has been possible with the collaboration of Indian Missions abroad, MoCA, MHA, MoHFW and state government of India. Special senior officers were designated as state coordinators for each state for smooth coordination at all level. Air India and Air India Express played a major role, in the evacuation process as special ferry flights from various Indian cities. 14,800 Indians were brought back, from 12 countries in the first phase.

Till now Indian authorities have already brought back Indian students from Italy, Malaysia, Iran, Philippines, UK and the US. First batch of evacuation actually started with the Indian students evacuation from Wuhan, China, with the first flight on 31 January, a week after Wuhan went into lockdown.

This VBM mission by the government of India has been the largest evacuation exercise since the 1990’s since the Kuwait Airlift. Under the VBM mission the Government of India facilitated the repatriation of Indian nationals abroad in a phased manner. The first phase started with flights carrying back Indians from the six GCC countries, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines, USA and UK, with the next phase including countries like Afghanistan and Sri Lanka. On 1st August, 2020 the mission entered into the 5th phase. It is expected that close to 700 flights will operate between India and at least 53 countries during this phase, and expect to repatriate more than 1.2 lakh passengers.

Also, the process is a two-way traffic process, passage from India to various destinations. The Ministry of Home Affairs stated that a person who has an OCI card or held the citizenship of a foreign country, or held a visa of more than one year of that country, or had a green card of that country, can travel on the repatriation flights leaving India under the mission.

Large numbers of countries around the world evacuating citizens and diaspora population from the areas hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. Other than India, countries which conducted major evacuations  are Australia, Belgium, France, Germany, Japan, Indonesia, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and the United States were among the first few nations who evacuated their diaspora from around the world. 

With this background, the Web-Symposium will try to highlight the following

Key issues:

  • Indian Diaspora under Distress and Indian Governments’ response in the past
  • COVID- 19 and need of evacuation for Indian diaspora
  • Major Evacuation Missions for Diaspora: Magnitude and Challenges of Evacuation
  • Current Status of the Vande Bharat Mission
  • Distress Evacuation and Challenges on the Healthcare system.
  • Distress Evacuation and its Implications on the Economic front.
  • Distress Evacuation and its Implications on Food and Shelter, and livelihood opportunities for the Indian Diaspora.
  • Expectations of the stranded Indians from home and host countries.
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