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India allows private Bangladesh airline to fly back stranded Bangladeshi citizens

In a rare gesture extended to its closest friendly neighbor Bangladesh, India has permitted it to take back Bangladeshi citizens who had been stranded in the country after the national lockdown since March 25. The lockdown was declared to contain the spread of the viral Covid-19 pandemic which has affected nearly 180 countries, affecting close to two million people.

As Biman, the national carrier of Bangladesh, had declined to ferry its stranded citizens, the Modi Government extended a special permission to a private airlines of Bangladesh to fly back their citizens from different cities of India. Both the External Affairs Ministry here and the Bangladesh High Commission in New Delhi jointly coordinated this decision to facilitate return of Bangladeshi citizens as they were facing hardships and wanted to go back home.

At one point of time, Bangladesh High Commission in New Delhi had to seek the intervention of their Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to sort out internal problem between national carrier Biman and the private airlines U.S.- Bangla.

At the intervention of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, nearly one thousand  stranded Bangladeshi citizens in India can hope to return home.

Beginning April 20 when India is set to relax some of the restrictions on the lockdown of the country, six special chartered flights will carry home the stranded citizens of Bangladesh from different cities in India. In fact, High Commissioner of Bangladesh in India Mohammed Imran and his colleagues had to burn midnight oil for a number of days in trying to coordinate with authorities at home as well as in India in order to begin the flights with all necessary precautions.

At the time of the national lockdown last month in the country, thousands of Bangladeshi citizens were in India for various reasons. Many of them are students studying in different Universities, some came on tourist and medical visas. Many citizens of Bangladesh are those who came for medical treatment found themselves stranded in various cities like Chennai, Vellore, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Kolkata.

At the outset, Bangladesh High Commission discussed this issue of sending the citizens back to Dhaka with the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) in New Delhi. The Government here had agreed to the return of all those stranded people, if Bangladesh Government could arrange a charter flight and the government was willing to grant due permission for taking out those people from different cities.

Bangladesh High Commission initially tried to rope in their national carrier Bangladesh Biman to operate flights but due to reasons best known to them, the national carrier was not agreeable to the proposal. Sources claimed that pilots and crew members of the Bangladesh Biman declined to fly with their citizens who might be suspected to be carriers of Covid-19 virus.

After this private airline U.S.- Bangla agreed to ferry all those stranded citizens back to Bangladesh after booking their tickets. Initially, lockdown in India was declared till April 14 but Prime Minister Narendra Modi after consultations with State Chief Ministers extended it till May 3.

Worried citizens of Bangladesh, stranded in India, were also concerned about their financial resources and well-being.  Again, High Commissioner and other officials had another round of discussion with the Indian authorities here and the government finally agreed to consider to allow flights by private airline U.S.- Bangla which is not so common in the civil aviation sector.

Meanwhile,  Biman raised objections about U.S.- Bangla to bring back Bangladesh citizens as Biman handles all ground operations in Bangladesh. Finding no other way, Bangladesh High Commission in New Delhi had to seek intervention of their Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to sort out the peculiar problem.

Hopefully, all the stranded Bangladeshi citizens along with their families can look forward to their return home. U.S.-Bangla is set to fly to Chennai and Kolkata to take back the passengers. Four officers from the Bangladesh Mission in New Delhi have been in contact with respective state Governments for ferrying stranded citizens and their relatives in Hyderabad, Bengaluru and Vellor to transport them to Chennai.  On their return to Bangladesh, the people will have to remain in quarantine for at least 14 days as per the protocol. 

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