Vande Bharat Mission - My Experience
Photo by Marcus Zymmer on Unsplash
I recently returned to India via an evacuation flight organised by the GOI. In my opinion, the operation lacks transparency in communication, intent, and selection process, and exploits stranded citizens. The entire process was chaotic, confusing and extremely expensive (capable of reviving Air India and sustaining lavish hotels during COVID-19). I have been approached by a few people who have their family and friends stuck to get more information around evacuation. Therefore, I felt the need to offer some clarity around the process. FYI, my flight was from Chicago to Ahmedabad, the planning might differ on the basis of location and is a subject to evolving government travel advisories.
Step 1: To be evacuated, fill the registration form (Photo) which is likely available at the Embassy of India website of your respective host countries.
Step 2: Upon selection, you will be contacted by the Consulate office via an email (Photo). I received the mail a week before my flight. Sometimes this can take a while, however, contacting the embassy for an update won’t help. You WILL be contacted if and when selected.
Step 3: The email will have attached a Revised Undertaking form, Self Declaration Form and Mandatory requirements for airport check form. You will have a couple of hours to send your confirmation to the embassy and submit the card verification details to Air India. The undertaking form is for submission at the airport during check-in and Self-Declaration form to be submitted upon landing.
Step 4: Air India officials will coordinate with you for ticket payment and email you the ticket. This ticket will not have your flight and seat number and there is no web-check-in option available.
Step 5: To prepare for your flight make sure you have a mask, else you will not be allowed to enter the airport or board the flight. While not mandatory, as a precautionary measure please carry disposable gloves, hand sanitiser and wipes as the flight will be full.
Step 6: At the airport, besides your passport, you must carry 2 copies of both, the ticket and the Undertaking form. Please make sure to follow the specifications given in your ticket about the check-in and cabin bag weights allowed for the flight. The check-in process will begin approximately 5 hours before your flight. It’s a longer wait than usual, so please use the restroom before you get in the line.
Step 7: As you arrive closer to the counter, your temperature will be checked, and you will be permitted to board the flight only if it is normal. At the counter, you will need to submit your Undertaking form (photo) as an assurance that you will bear the expense of the travel and the institutional quarantine upon landing.
Step 8: When you board the flight, you will be asked by the attendants if you need the Self-declaration form (Photo attached). If you don’t have, then take 2 forms.
Step 9: On your seat, you will find food packets along with a full-face cover, hand wipes, masks, and water bottles. It might get uncomfortable having these items near your footrest, and the attendants don’t come to collect the trash. Please respect the flight attendants by following the instructions.
Step 10: Upon landing, you will be directed to a counter for submitting the self-declaration forms, evaluating the body temperature and symptoms, if any. The stationed medical professionals will retain one self-declaration form and hand you a stamped copy to be shown at the immigration counter.
Step 11: Post the immigration counter and baggage claim, officers will guide you to register yourself wrt the city and facility you want to be quarantined in. At the destination airport, if you don’t have an Indian SIM Card, request an official to lend the phone and make necessary calls. As per the guidelines, you cannot be quarantined in your home city, so pick another city (not sure whether this is only in Gujarat or nationwide). I found the list of institutional facilities in the State of Gujarat on [Vande Bharat Mission- GUJARAT HOTEL LIST](https://nri.gujarat.gov.in/vbm-guj-hotel-list.htm). Please check your respective state websites or news to find relevant information about the facilities in your home states. If you can’t, don’t panic. At the airport, you can ask the authorities for information and decide then. For people who have flights landing in other states, as per my knowledge, they will have to be quarantined in that state. For example, if you are from Madhya Pradesh but you have a flight to Ahmedabad, you will be quarantined in Ahmedabad and then you will be free to travel back to your home state.
Step 12: On your way out, you will be handed a meal box as it might take a while for the government assigned buses to drop you to your quarantine facilities. There are paid and unpaid quarantine facilities. Most are 3-5 star hotels serving as paid institutional facilities with a minimum cost of Rs. 2500 + taxes per day, which includes 3 meals and wifi services. Please confirm these basic details with the hotel. It is likely that government officials might lobby certain hotels, so research and book what feels okay to you. I had major issues with the WIFI at the resort I was staying at. The hotels don’t require you to pay immediately. They will provide the bank details and you can ask your friends or family members to make an online payment. You will not be left stranded! Currently, the Indian government has declared minimum7 days mandatory institutional quarantine followed by 7 days home quarantine for all incoming passengers however, state governments are free to increase the number of days in an institutional quarantine, so please refer to your state advisories.
Step 13: During quarantine, the doctor will come to check your temperature daily and ask whether you have developed any symptoms. At the end of 7 days, or more (as per the state government’s order), the doctor will give you a health circular for your discharge. While it is the government’s responsibility to drop you from the airport to your quarantine facility, you will have to arrange your own conveyance to home. For passengers who have to go to their home state post institutional quarantine, I am not sure whether the government will arrange that or you will have to figure that yourself. with domestic flights, functioning shouldn’t be that difficult. You can ask the officials at the airport for more information once you land.
Step 14: Once you reach home, follow the 7-day home-quarantine. In many cases COVID symptoms appear on 13th day, so maintain distance from your family members as well for 7 days at least after you arrive home.
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P.S. Besides this, for all the students in the US, wanting updates on the evacuation or just details around OPT, I would recommend registering at the Embassy Indian Student Hub, irrespective whether you wish to return or not. It is just a great resource and peer network for Indian students studying to under OPT in the US. The link is [https://www.ishubus.com/](https://www.ishubus.com/)
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this post are the personal views of the author. They do not necessarily reflect the views of The Mom Store.