The Week In Parliament

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Several issues including the threat of Corona virus dominated the proceedings in both the Houses of Indian Parliament this week. Minister of State for External Affairs V. Muraleedharan told the Lok Sabha that eight resident Indians in the United Arab Emirates were under quarantine. Kuwait has none. In Iran, there are over 6,000 Indian nationals including about eleven hundred pilgrims mainly from the Union Territories of Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir and Maharashtra, nearly 300 students primarily from Jammu and Kashmir, about one thousand fishermen including from Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Gujarat and others who are on long term stay in Iran for pursuing their livelihood and religious studies. He said, New Delhi has made focused efforts for the safe return of Indians stranded in Iran. A team of six Indian health officials was deputed to Iran to set up testing and sampling facilities there. He said 1,706 samples have been taken including from pilgrims, students and other Indians in Iran. The Minister said as on 16th of March, 389 Indians including 205 pilgrims and students have been repatriated in four batches on board special flights of the Indian Air Force and Iranian airlines. He said, efforts are being made facilitate early return of the Indian nationals stranded in Iran after testing them. The situation is being monitored regularly.

In reply to another question, the Minister said the Union government provided 15 tones of medical assistance comprising masks, gloves and other emergency medical equipment to China on 26 February 2020. This assistance was provided as a mark of friendship and solidarity from the people of India towards the people of China as the two countries also celebrate the 70th anniversary of establishment of diplomatic relations this year. The Government has constituted a high level Group of Ministers under the Chairpersonship of Union Health Minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan to review, monitor and evaluate the preparedness and measures taken regarding management of COVID-19 in India. External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar is also a member of the Group of Ministers. The Ministry has also issued several advisories.

Mr Muraleedharan said Prime Minister Narendra Modi had written to Chinese President Xi Jinping on 8th of February 2020, in view of the corona virus outbreak in China, conveying the solidarity of the people and Government of India with the people of China and the readiness of Government of India to provide assistance.

The External Affairs Ministry has said New Delhi has proactively reached out and briefed the international community on the facts relating to Jammu and Kashmir and also shared perspective and objectives of the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019. This information was given by Minister of State V. Muraleedharan in reply to a question in the Rajya Sabha. To another question, the Minister said there were a total of 138 Indian nationals including 132 crew members on board the Diamond Princess Cruise ship. Of these, 119 Indian nationals were brought back to India on a special flight on 27th of February 2020. Upon their return, they were quarantined in an Indian Army facility at Manesar in the state of Haryana.

The Minister said New Delhi organized three special flights on 31st of January, 1st of February and 26th of February to evacuate 766 persons, including students from the city of Wuhan as well as other cities of Hubei Province in China in view of the continuing lock down of the Hubei Province because of the Corona virus there. Mr. Muraleedharan said the government would also like to bring back people of our neighboring countries who would like to come back. The evacuated persons included 723 Indian nationals and 43 foreign nationals. The foreign nationals included 23 from Bangladesh, 9 from Maldives, 2 from Myanmar, 1 from South Africa, one from Madagascar and one from United States of America who was a partner of an Indian national. In addition, six Chinese citizens who were spouses and/or children of Indian nationals were also evacuated. The Minister said, a Travel Advisory was issued on 18 February, 2020.

Script: V. Mohan Rao, Journalist