Why are people unhappy with Vande Bharat Mission?
In the past one and a half months, more than 150k people have flown to India from all parts of the world and the number is steadily increasing. After being standard for more than two months, lots of Indians have reached home, courtesy Vande Bharat Mission. Being stuck in a foreign land can be distressing and there was desperation and urgency amongst Indians to come back. People are thankful for the opportunity provided by the Government of India via Vande Bharat Mission.
However, you can sense that people are unhappy with the way they are being bought back to their homeland. Once you reach your destination, you are bound to forget all the hardships and difficulties you faced during your long and tough journey back home. But we need to understand what is troubling the travelers and why do they want that international flights to be resumed ASAP.
- The VBM flights are departing from very few cities and reach limited destinations. Everyone has to reach the selected city on their own, sometimes via a 4-5 hours flight. This is really bothersome and problematic. You also have to pay for the extra baggage as the domestic airlines have limited baggage allowance. Travelers are also exposed twice to the lethal virus, as they have to go through an extra journey.
- Air India website hasn’t been updated for decades and booking a ticket there is a chore in itself. There are lots of incongruity and hurdles. The website and App crash at the first instance of traffic. People browsing exactly at the same time see different availability and options. There is no sync between the App and Website. If you want to reschedule or cancel your flight, you have a task on hand. There are constraints on payment methods. You have to understand that people are stuck in foreign land with limited sources.
- Flights are prohibitively expensive and everyone can’t afford it, especially if they are traveling as a family. We have to remember that these flights are not end-to-end. One has to buy domestic flights, stay at an airport hotel, and pay for quarantine facilities. All this adds up to a tidy sum which can make a big hole in your pocket.
- The check-in entails standing in a mile long queue. The elderly and pregnant woman are given no preference or assistance.
- Despite the high prices, there is no social distancing in flights and they are jam-packed. The robe given to middle seat passenger is just an eye-wash.
- Flights are operating with minimalistic services and facilities. You have to travel with basic food, no blankets, and no inflight entertainment. There is no provision of tea/coffee. These are long flights and it can be very inconvenient.
- The worst part is when you disembark. It can take you about 7-8 hours to get out of the airport. Not an easy job for anyone after a long and exhausting flight. You can imagine the ordeal for aged, pregnant, and families with small kids. You have to stand in long queues without any food/water and argue endlessly with the staff. You have to pass through several rounds of medical screening which has no value or purpose. There is no consideration or empathy for anyone.
- The inconsistency of quarantine rules is really distressing for everyone. There are no clear rules and they keep changing making it impossible to plan anything. People have no idea where they will be quarantined – at the landing city or the final destination. They are not sure if they will be quarantined in a hotel or allowed to go home. The ambiguity and unpredictability have resulted in many people canceling their VBM flights.
- The Vande Bharat Mission flights mostly lands in Delhi and people have to make their own domestic travel arrangements. When the domestic flights are so limited, it’s not easy finding a connecting flight. You have no idea ‘IF’ you will be allowed to take a flight and ‘WHEN’ will you be allowed to travel. People miss their booked flights because of the prolonged process at the airport. They are forced to stay at the airport for long hours, sometimes overnight. Passengers traveling onwards to other cities have to pay large amounts for their luggage.
- The chaos and rush at Delhi airport can dissuade most resilient of the traveler. The COVID Triage room is chaotic and cramped and has no social distancing. Spending a couple of hours in such a stuffed room can be really hazardous.
- From the airport to the hotel, you have to travel in dirty, rickety, non-AC public buses with long stopovers at each hotel. With the soaring temperatures and high humidity, this trip can really drain you. After paying so much money, can’t one expect better facilities?
- Despite the large number of flights deployed by VBM, there are lots of people still waiting for their turn. The numbers are increasing daily because of consistent lay-offs and closing of the colleges. The repatriation flights are not able to cope with the increasing demand, especially in Gulf countries. If there is a sudden emergency, chances of you getting a reservation in next flight is negligible.
- There are many restrictions on VBM flights even now. Lots of NRI’s are not allowed to board the flights even if they have emergencies at home. They are left with no option but to continue the long wait.
It is true that the government, Air India, and airport staff are doing their best and everyone is grateful. But there are lots of loopholes and glitches that need to be looked into. It is definitely not a humanitarian project and neither is it the ‘biggest evacuation’ of all times – as projected by the government of India. The government needs to think beyond the Vande Bharat Mission.
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