Friday, Aug 12, 2022

Operation Ganga To Vande Bharat: India's Biggest Evacuation Missions In Recent Past  

As the Indian government carries out Operation Ganga to evacuate thousands of Indians stranded in and around war-torn Ukraine, here's a look at a few of the biggest rescue missions carried out by the Union Government in the past.

Indian nationals on board a special Air India flight as people stranded in war-torn Ukraine .
Indian nationals on board a special Air India flight as people stranded in war-torn Ukraine . PTI

As tensions mount between Ukraine and Russia, major cities have been left under siege. Countries, near and far, are increasing their efforts to evacuate their citizens stuck in a war-torn country. India has now begun its Operation Ganga to bring its people, stranded in Ukraine, back to their homeland.

Under the operation, India will operate 46 evacuation flights till March 8 to bring back its citizens, who have managed to make it to the neighbouring countries of Ukraine. Indian Air Force C-17 will fly out of Delhi on Wednesday morning to Romania. According to the Ministry of External Affairs, the flights are planned are 29 from Bucharest, 10 from Budapest, six from Rzeszow, and one from Kosice.

What is Operation Ganga?

Amidst the escalating tension between the two countries, the Union Government has launched Operation Ganga to evacuate around 20,000 Indians in Ukraine. As per the data by the Ministry of External Affairs, around 20,000 Indians are stuck in Ukraine. 4,000 were able to come to India before the invasion of Ukraine by Russia. Under this operation, India has already brought back more than 1,000 of its nationals from the country. 

The evacuation flights will be operating mainly via the neighbouring countries of Poland, Hungary, Romania and the Slovak Republic. 24*7 Control Centres have also been set up at these places to assist the evacuation process. 

On Saturday, the first flight under Operation Ganga, Air India carrying 219 Indian evacuees from Ukraine, had landed in Mumbai Airport from Bucharest. Besides Air India flights, other boeings including SpiceJet, IndiGo and Air India Express have now joined the mission. 

In a high-level meeting on Monday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had advised four ministers -- Union Minister for Housing and Urban Affairs and Petroleum and Natural Gas Hardeep Puri, Minister for Law and Justice Kiren Rijiju, Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiradtiya Scindia, and Minister of State for Road Transport and Highways and Civil Aviation General V K Singh -- to Poland and Romania as Special Envoys of Indian Government to coordinate the evacuation process. 

The Ministry of External Affairs has also set up a dedicated Twitter account to share emergency contact and emails for the evacuation process. 

In the past, India has carried out several other operations, that too had similar names evoking a sense of nationalism. 

Operation Devi Shakti (2021)

As the name suggests, Devi Shakti means the power of the Goddess. Under Operation Devi Shakti, India carried out the evacuation of hundreds of Indians from Afghanistan in 2021 with the aid of the Indian Armed Forces. Hundreds of Indians were left stranded in Afghanistan after the collapse of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the fall of Kabul, the capital city, to the Taliban. The operation came following the seizure by the Taliban and allied militant groups on 1 May 2021, concurrent with the withdrawal of most U.S. troops from Afghanistan.[3]

Operation Vande Bharat (2021)

Operation Vande Bharat was launched on May 7,  2020, when the Indian government brought back Indians stranded in different countries in the Covid-19 pandemic-hit world. Under this operation, more than 2.17 lakh flights have been operated under Vande and over 1.83 crore passengers have been facilitated as of October 31, 2021. As many as 84 flights were operated in the first phase that lasted 11 days till May 17, 2020. The mission is currently in its 16th phase. 

Operation Samudra Setu (2021)

Another mission launched by the Indian government to bring back Indian stranded overseas during the Covid-19 pandemic, Operation Samudra Setu was a naval operation that brought back over 3,000 Indian citizens to their homeland. Indian Naval ships Jalashwa (Landing Platform Dock), and Airavat, Shardul and Magar (Landing Ship Tanks) participated in this operation which lasted over 55 days and involved traversing more than 23,000 km by sea.

Operation Raahat (2015)

Operation Raahat was launched in 2015 when hundreds of Indians were left stranded in Yemen after a conflict raged between the Yemeni government and Houthi rebels. Under Operation Raahat, India evacuated nearly 5,600 people from Yemen.  The evacuation by sea began on 1 April 2015 from the port of Aden. The air evacuation by the Indian Air Force and Air India commenced on 3 April 2015 from Sana'a. 

Operation Maitri (2015)

Operation Maitri was launched in 2015 as a joint relief and rescue operation by the Indian government and the Indian Armed Forces in the aftermath of the Nepal earthquake. The joint Army-Air Force operation brought over 5,000 Indians back from Nepal by Air Force and civilian planes. The Indian army successfully evacuated 170 foreign nationals from the US, the UK, Russia and Germany.

Operation Safe Homecoming (2011)

In 2011, when a civil war broke out in the Northern African state of Libya, the Indian government launched Operation Safe Homecoming on 26 February and rescued 15,400 Indians. They came back on 9 special flights, from Libya (Tripoli and Sebha), Egypt (Alexandria) and Malta. 47 air charter sorties have been undertaken since the commencement of the evacuation exercise. The sea route was also used for some evacuations with the help of the Indian Navy. The sea route was also used for some evacuations with the help of the Indian Navy.

Operation  Sukoon (2006)

Operation Sukoon was launched in 2006 as Israel and Lebanon broke into a military conflict in July 2006. The operation is now famously known as ‘Beirut Sealift’. It is hailed as the largest ever evacuation after the ‘Dunkirk’ evacuation. Between July 19 to August 1, over 2,000 nationals, Nepalese and Sri Lankans were evacuated under the operation.

Kuwait Airlift (1990)

After Vande Bharat, Kuwait's airlift remains the second-largest rescue operation by the Indian government. The 1990 airlift of Indians from Kuwait was carried out from August 13, 1990, to October 20, 1990, after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.  Air India and other aircraft were deployed to rescue 1,75,000 people. Given the scale of evacuation, Air India found a mention in the Guinness Book of World Records for airlifting the largest number of people in a civilian plane.