The Indian Navy has readied three of its largest warships to move to the Gulf to evacuate stranded Indians. The INS Jalashwa, an LPD or Landing Platform Dock— an amphibious warship— has been readied along with two LSTs or tank landing ships.
The government has asked these ships to be prepared to move within a few days. As they are large ships, particularly the INS Jalashwa, a huge number of people can be evacuated, if the option to send ships as opposed to Air India jumbos is taken. The Jalashwa, apart from its crew, can carry 1,000 troops and after social distancing, it translates to about 850 people.
The two LSTs are smaller (there are Kumbhir class ships) and can carry several hundred people apart from the crew. In fact, the Indian Navy has eight LSTs in Vizag, Port Blair and Cochin, but two are being refitted. Apart from the other two being readied, the other four LSTs are also to be readied.
If the ships are used, and it is an option the government is seriously considering, the sailing time to the Gulf is four to five days depending on which port the vessels are leaving from. If they have to pick up people from May3-4, they would have to leave in two-three days.
The government’s preliminary plan is to evacuate people who have “compelling reasons” to return like a family emergency, loss of jobs and the expiry of work permits, from the Gulf, where there are eight million Indians, South-east Asia, Central Asia and in smaller numbers, from Europe and the United States. The missions in these areas have been asked to “grade” people— people who need to return immediately will get preference.
A final decision by the government on evacuation is likely to be taken soon. But before that, ships and planes will have to be readied.