More than two thousand Indian citizens stranded in New Zealand continue to wait for clearer information as the news of incoming Air India flights to take them home continue to emerge, and evolve. 

The latest among the fast-developing situations is the change of port of destination from the earlier announced Wellington, to the now confirmed Auckland, for the first in-coming flight on June 4. 

Earlier, it was reported that the first Air-India flight will be coming to Wellington on Thursday, June 4, which has caused some concerns within the majority of Indians who are currently stranded in Auckland, who were rightly worried about how to manage their travel to Wellington and complete necessary formalities. 

Even further to confirmation of this first flight to New Zealand, there are still many questions of the stranded travellers such as where to buy tickets, the requirements such as pre-departure medical screening and post-arrival quarantine measures in India and the onward domestic journey from the port of arrival. 

The Indian Weekender is continuously in touch with the authorities, including the office of the Indian High Commission which is working tirelessly for the systematic execution of India’s biggest-ever evacuation mission. 

Following our conversation with the High Commissioner of India, Muktesh Pardeshi, and  Second Secretary at the High Commission, Paramjeet Singh, the Indian Weekender is presenting here the most accurate information as of now with regards to NZ operations of the Vande Bharat evacuation mission. 

Indian High Commissioner appeals for a calm approach

Mr Pardeshi is appealing to all stranded Indian citizens to remain calm at the moment as he and his team are busy in planning the logistics and SOPs in order for smooth execution of what is clearly a complex evacuation mission. 

“We will be disseminating all relevant information as soon as we are able to finalise it in consultation with relevant authorities in India and New Zealand,” Mr Pardeshi said. 

There are likely to be multiple flights back home as GOI plans on a “cluster approach”

Speaking more about the possible reasons for the perceived delay in the release of information around the number of flights coming to New Zealand and further details around ticketing, pricing and onward journey, Mr Pardeshi revealed the current underlying “cluster-approach” of the Indian government in managing a planned evacuation of a large number of people. 

Explaining the cluster approach thinking, Mr Pardeshi told the Indian Weekender that given that thousands of people are being brought back daily from different parts of the world and they further intend to travel to distant faraway regional centres, the authorities back home are working in a manner that most people are landed nearer to their final destination within India. 

It seems that the government of India may want to take incoming flights from New Zealand to many possible destinations within India such as New Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Kochi, Ahmedabad and Amritsar. 

This strategy aims to reduce logistics pressure on anyone major centre, minimises further onward domestic travel, plus takes into accord the sensitivity of different state-governments in India, who are under immense pressure to keep their respective population safe during this Covid-19 pandemic. 

Although nothing is written in stone, as it is a rapidly evolving situation, yet what is clear is that the government of India is working assiduously to evacuate the maximum number of people in as much safe manner as possible. 

Tickets will be most likely on-invitation based by the office of the High Commission 

Bringing some certainty on ticketing, Mr Pardeshi also hinted that the ticketing will be invitation-based only, once their office has absolute clarity around flights and matches it up with the priority list of stranded passengers. 

Once again nothing is set in stone, but one thing is clear that it is a complex mission with multiple and overarching priorities that the High Commission’s staff are committed to executing with clinical perfection. 

The best advice to all stranded passengers as of now is to keep their details updated with the Indian High Commission and follow their lead as and when asked for further action in the coming days.