Naval warship INS Jalashwa carrying 698 stranded Indian citizens from the Maldives arrived in Kerala’s Kochi harbour on Sunday morning. This voyage undertaken by the Navy is it’s first massive evacuation exercise from foreign soil during the COVID-19 lockdown.

According to the official sources, the passengers would disembark from the cruise terminal of Cochin Port Trust.

Reportedly nineteen pregnant women were on board the ship. While Four passengers are from Lakshwadeep, 187 passengers are from Tamil Nadu 9 from Telganana, eight people from Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka each. While 3 people each from Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Maharashtra and Rajasthan.  And 1 each from Goa and Assam.

There are seven passengers each from Uttarakhand and West Bengal,  four from Delhi, three from Puducherry, while there are two passengers each from Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Jharkhand, the sources said.

Inspector General (IG) of Police Vijay Sakhare said,  “all arrangements are in place to facilitate the safe stay of those repatriated, comprising 440 Keralites and people from other parts of the country.”

The High Commission of India in the Maldives said in a statement that the Indian nationals were charged USD 40 as the evacuation service charge.

The Government is also deploying a raft of Indian naval ships to undertake the ‘Vande Bharat Mission’, the biggest evacuation exercise in world history.

Meanwhile, a total of 14 warships have been readied for evacuating Indian citizens from Gulf and other countries amidst the Coronavirus pandemic, said Indian Navy officials on Tuesday.

The Indian Navy had said it had launched “Operation Samudra Setu” (Sea Bridge) to repatriate Indian citizens from overseas. Indian naval ships ‘INS Jalashwa’ and ‘INS Magar’ were en route to the Maldives to commence the first phase of the operation.

The Government had on Monday said it will facilitate the return of Indian nationals stranded abroad on compelling grounds in a phased manner from May 7.

Around four lakh Indians in the Gulf region have registered with the Indian missions to return to India. They include those who have either lost their jobs due to the global lockdown and those whose contracts were over or those who have no jobs. Also, there were women who were pregnant. Preference would be given to those who have ‘compelling reason’ to return home, sources had said.