The missions are yet to begin analysing the data.
As of 8pm on Thursday, a total of 50,000 Indian citizens have registered on the online portal collecting data of citizens who wish to travel home amid the Covid-19 pandemic in less than 24 hours since its launch late Wednesday night.
Consul General of India in Dubai, Vipul, said: “The figures stands as of 8pm on Thursday (April 30). The data collection process would continue. However, we haven’t begun analysing the data as such.” The missions expect the numbers to rise in the coming days.
Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan said during his daily Covid-19 briefing on Thursday that a total of 353,468 Keralites in 201 countries have registered on the Norka-Roots portal to return as and when the lockdown ends. “A majority of this is from Middle East countries, which includes 153,660 from the UAE and 47,268 from Saudi Arabia,” said Vijayan.
Following the surge in applications, the Consulate General of India in Dubai has urged residents to not rush to register as the database will be up for several days. He said, “The number of people trying to access it at the same time is very large.”
The consulate tweeted on Thursday evening, “We are getting several thousand hits on the website for registration and have already registered close to 25,000 people. We request everyone to not rush to register today itself. The database will be up for several days.”
The web portal was launched by the Indian Embassy in the UAE and the Consulate General of India in Dubai on Wednesday, April 20.
As the website suffered a few technical difficulties due to the overwhelming response from user, the missions said they working to stabilize the back-end operations.
Commenting on how the missions would ascertain on who should be given priority to be on the first few flights back home, Vipul said, “General priority would be given to workers in extreme distress, medical cases, pregnant women, and elderly people. There are also a small number of stranded students and about 19 to 20 Indians stranded at the airport.”
Those who registered on Norka will have to re-register
The Consul-General clarified that even those who have registered on the website of Norka Roots, the Kerala state government’s initiative for stranded non-resident NRKs and visitors, will have to re-register on the mission’s website.
Since its border closure on March 22, tens of thousands of Indian citizens are stranded overseas, especially in the GCC. In the UAE, individuals on visit visas, job seekers, unemployed workers, pregnant women, separated families, and aged and elderly persons are desperate to return home. Residents are being asked to furnish details such as their compelling reason for travelling bank to India and the status of Covid-19 tests.
On Tuesday, government officials said at least three Indian naval warships and 500 aircraft have been asked to be on standby in what could be the biggest repatriation operation of stranded Indian diaspora from the Gulf.
Stranded Indians welcome registrations
Indians wishing to fly home have welcomed the e-registrations and have called it a foot forward in the right direction.
F.B., an Indian expat who wishes to travel to his hometown with his pregnant wife, said, “It is a step forward. Maybe the flights might take more time to get up and running, but as a soon-to-be-father, I don’t have too much time left in my hands. My wife needs medical care and she can travel only in the next two weeks.”
Sudevan, another expat who has lost his job and has several medical complications said, “I want to return home to my family as soon as possible. It is impossible to manage expenses here.”
Indian associations assist workers
Vipul has also encouraged community groups and Indian associations in various emirates to reach out to the workers’ communities and help them register. The Indian community in the UAE have welcomed the ‘much-needed’ relief for stranded Indians.
As per Indian associations in Sharjah and Dubai, a majority of those wishing to return are stranded, unemployed workers and job seekers stuck in the UAE on visit visas. In a bid to reach out Indians in workers accommodations, associations have planned the release of instructional videos and helpline volunteers who will inform callers about the e-registration.
EP Johnson, president of the Sharjah Indian Association told Khaleej Times that it is planning to create information videos in three languages — Hindi, Malayalam, and English. “These videos will be distributed to camp managers of labour camps. Furthermore, we have also instructed our volunteers at the Covid-19 help desk to inform people about this facility and give them the know-how of how they can fill the form,” said Johnson.
He added, “As per my understanding, this is only a data collection process. What we need now is some clarity on whether these chartered flights or evacuation flights or normal flights.”
Roop Singh Sidhu, general secretary of the Indian Association in Ajman said plans are underway to raise awareness in labour communities. He said, “We have been receiving calls from people for the past few weeks. We already have a database of people who had listed their wish to return earlier, and we have collected their details from them. Our volunteers will reach out to them starting tomorrow.”
He added, “Several labourers who are not well-educated and do not have access to a smartphone or a computer, we are collecting their data and submitting data on their behalf.” Sidhu said since the system is overwhelmed, he will plan the applications for a later date.
Saudi Arabia launches e-registrations
Similar registrations for stranded Indians has also been launched in Saudi Arabia. The Indian Embassy in Saudi Arabia tweeted, “It is stated that the purpose is only to collect data and no decision has been taken yet regarding the resumption of flights to India. The Embassy will make an announcement on the website and its social media accounts as and when a decision is taken by the Government of India in this regard.”