The Narendra Modi government on Friday told the Delhi Court that it is not possible for them to evacuate Indian nationals from Bangladesh or any other coronavirus-affected country due to the "lockdown situation" in view of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Modi government said that it wanted to minimise the arrivals from countries affected by COVID-19 due to the risk associated with it. However, the government said that it has asked Indian Missions abroad to help its nationals stranded there due to the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than 50,000 people and infected over 10 million globally.

Indians stranded in coronavirus-hit countries

"The severe risk posed by arrivals from an increasing number of countries affected by COVID-19 is something that the government is seeking to minimize. Indian Missions abroad have been asked to extend help and facilitation to stranded Indian nationals to the extent possible," the government told a bench of Justice Sanjeev Sachdeva and Justice Navin Chawla.

Appearing for the central Government, Standing Counsel Jasmeet Singh told the high court that there is a lockdown in a situation in both India and Bangladesh and in such a situation it was not possible for them to arrange the evacuation of Indian nationals stranded there in any other countries.

"The approach of this Ministry has, therefore, been to advise the Indian nationals to stay put where they are in line with Government of India's approach to contain the spread of the virus within India and allowing health machinery to focus domestic containment," he said.

The Modi government said this in response to a PIL filed by advocate Gaurav Kumar Bansal which sought directions to the Ministry of External Affairs to evacuate the Indian students stranded in Bangladesh. The Delhi High Court had asked the Centre to respond by April 3.

Indian Missions abroad asked to help stranded Indians

In its response, the government said that "Missions/Posts abroad have been advised to set up dedicated helpline numbers and publicize them extensively to assist stranded Indians." The MEA has also activated a 24x7 helpline at the South Block to assist people seeking information related to the COVID-19.

The government also informed the high court about the evacuation operations it has undertaken. The Indian government has evacuated a total of 1698 citizens from four countries - China, Japan, Iran and Italy – from February 1 till March 15. It said that these people were put in quarantine and at present, there are limited quarantine facilities in the country, the Delhi High Court was told.