NEW DELHI: The government has launched a multi-prong ‘Operation Ganga’ under which about 2,000 Indian nationals were evacuated so far from Ukraine, Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla said on Sunday. Shringla said he had held separate meetings with the Ukrainian and Russian ambassadors while assuring the stranded citizens that they would be evacuated.
India began evacuation on Saturday with the first flight bringing 219 people from Bucharest to Mumbai in the evening. The next two flights from Bucharest and Budapest with 250 and 240 passengers landed at Delhi at 2.45 am and 9.20 am on Sunday. Another flight Romanian capital with 198 Indians reached at 5.35 pm.
As Ukraine has closed its airspace for civilian aircraft, India is banking on land routes to evacuate its citizens who are being directed to Bucharest and Budapest for airlift. The MEA, meanwhile, set up 24x7 control centres to assist Indians for reaching the border crossing points of Poland, Romania, Hungary and Slovakia. It also has launched a dedicated Twitter helpline to assist Operation Ganga.
Giving details, Shringla informed that the exit point to Poland was clogged with lakhs of Ukrainians and foreigners. ‘’This is a problem area.” Indians near Hungary, Romania and Slovakia were being guided towards the border points in phases, he said. “We are aware of a number of Indian citizens, particularly students, who continue to be in cities in the east and south-east of Ukraine. Unfortunately, these areas are live conflict areas and it is generally deemed unsafe to move around freely.”
The foreign secretary said that around a thousand Indians were already flown out of Romania and Hungary and another 1,000 evacuated from Ukraine through land routes. Nearly 2,000 Indians were in Kyiv and many of them have begun to move westward, he said. Shringla said the Indian embassy in Ukraine suggested that those who are located in eastern areas including Kyiv should start moving westwards to avoid the areas of conflict.