NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the Centre to take steps to bring back remaining Indians stranded in Kuwait amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The government has said that out of 1.3 lakh citizens who had enrolled for the repatriation with its Embassy, over 87,000 have already been brought back.
A bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, R Subhash Reddy and M R Shah took note of the submissions of the counsel of the Centre that every attempt has been made to bring back stranded Indians from Kuwait and fixed the plea filed by the Velinadu Vazh Tamilar Nala Sangam for hearing after four weeks.
The Sangam wanted a direction for bringing all the stranded Indians, willing to return, from Kuwait to India.
Till October 1, a total of 559 flights -- 177 special flights under the Vande Bharat Mission (VBM) and 382 chartered and special flights -- have already been operated from Kuwait to India, it said, adding "out of 1,33, 000 Indians, who had registered with the embassy in Kuwait, 87,022 have been bought back already."
The Ministry of External Affairs, in its affidavit, said that during the seventh phase of the VBM in October, Air India, Air India Express and Indigo Airlines are scheduled to operate 83 flights between Kuwait and different destinations in India.
It also gave details of schedule of flights of Air India, Air India Express and Indigo airlines to be operated during October 2020 under Phase VII of the Vande Bharat Mission to bring back Indians stranded abroad.
The information was being provided by the Centre in pursuance of an earlier direction in which the apex court, while taking note of the efforts, had sought information about the scheduled flights to be operated in the month of October between India and Kuwait.
"The central government and the Embassy of India in Kuwait remain fully conscious and sensitive to the difficulties faced by Indians stranded in Kuwait due to the ongoing COVID pandemic and are continuing their efforts to facilitate their travel from Kuwait to India," the government said.
Giving details of information about the total number of the stranded Indians in Kuwait, it said now many of those registered persons may not be willing to travel back and moreover, that some of them might have taken other flights except those operated under VBM.
Providing a schedule of flights to be operated in October, it said that some of the flights may be "rescheduled or cancelled" if there are not sufficient passengers there.
Moreover, foreign airlines such as Kuwait Airways and Jazeera Airlines have also been operating sufficient numbers of flights between Kuwait and India and therefore availability of flight is no more a reason for being stranded in Kuwait, it said.
The affidavit said that Indian Embassy continues to do welfare activities and in deserving cases, it is also providing free air tickets to needy stranded Indians from a welfare fund.