S Jaishankar undertakes surprise visit to Kashmir

Meets Kin Of People Stranded In Iran

S Jaishankar undertakes surprise visit to Kashmir

Srinagar: External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Monday made a surprise visit to Kashmir and met parents of students stranded in coronavirus-hit Iran as well as tourism industry representatives, assuring both groups that the government was seized of their problems and all would be well.

Jaishankar, whose visit was kept under a veil of secrecy, drove straight from the airport to the Kashmir International Convention complex, where around 100 parents of students stranded in Iran had gathered.

Those gathered at the complex said they were unaware about who they were supposed to meet. They said they received calls from the office of the divisional commissioner of Kashmir asking them to come for a meeting.

“Met in #Srinagar the families of Indian students in #Iran. Assured them that our Embassy @India_in_Iran is monitoring their welfare. We are committed to facilitating their early return to India,” Jaishankar tweeted.

An estimated 300 people from Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh are currently stranded in Iran. These include students, pilgrims and other residents.

The parents asked the minister that if students from China could be brought back why there was a delay in case of Iran, officials attending the meeting said.

According to the officials, the minister informed the parents that elderly and pilgrims would be brought back first, followed by students. Besides, he made it clear that anyone airlifted from Iran would be sent to a quarantine centre for 14 days of isolation.

Shabir Hussain, a resident of Budgam town in central Kashmir, said, “My daughter is in Iran. I received a call from the Divisional Commissioner office to reach here, so I came. The minister said the government will bring them back, but we are very concerned….we requested the minister to bring them back immediately.”

Another parent, speaking on condition of anonymity, said, “We told him that our children are in Iran and that we are very concerned about their well-being. He assured us that they are at a safe place and there was nothing to worry about. We felt a sense of relief.”

“My daughter, Nadia Shabir, studies in Iran. I request the government that our children are at a high risk of infection, so please bring them home as soon as possible,” one woman said.

“We felt good about his visit, but he did not give us any concrete assurance as to when the government will airlift them. He told us that screening and scanning is going on there. The minister said the government will first airlift the pilgrims as they were more in number and it will take a day or two for them to be brought here, after which students will be airlifted. We told the minister that if any one tests positive for the virus, he should be sent to quarantine centre but please bring the others home,” another parent said.

India will send a military transport aircraft to Iran on Monday night to bring back Indians stranded in the coronavirus-hit nation, official sources said.

The C-17 Globemaster military aircraft is expected to depart from the Hindon airbase around 8 pm, they said.

The external affairs minister also met representatives of the Kashmir hoteliers’ association, the tour and travel operators’ association and the house boat association.

In a tweet, the minister said, “Heard a clear message from them that they were ready for the forthcoming tourist season. Promised them that Govt would strongly support tourism promotion efforts, domestically and internationally.”

The representatives claimed they were asked to assemble at the venue to meet a finance team coming from Delhi to assess the current situation.

There was complete misinformation from the government and many of the associations had not come prepared, one of the hoteliers said, adding, “We came with out balance sheet which reflects losses and nothing else.”

Tour operators’ association member Nasir Shah, who attended the meeting, said they raised the issue of losses suffered by the industry after the lockdown of August 5 last year, the day the Centre withdrew the special status of the erstwhile state and bifurcated it into Union territories of Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir.

Officials said the Union minister assured the tourism industry representatives of “strong support” from the government to make 2020 a successful season.

Shah said the representatives of the industry asked for pro-active measures from Jaishankar’s ministry in withdrawal of travel advisories issued by various foreign countries in the aftermath of the developments of August 2019.

“He (Jaishankar) has assured help to us and ensure that our plight reaches the right corridors of the government. Other than this, we can only hope,” he said.

The minister also met top Army officials, including Lt Gen B S Raju, and then went to Baramulla in north Kashmir where he met with locals.

In a tweet, he said, “Interacted with the local community in #Baramulla. E-inaugurated a number of projects. Heard from a broad cross-section about their strong expectations of change and developmental progress. Confident that their faith in a better future will be realised.”

Jaishankar also visited the Regional Passport Office in Srinagar and took stock of its functioning.

C-17 Leaves For Iran To Bring Back Indians

New Delhi: India sent a military transport aircraft with a specialist medical team on board to Iran on Monday night to bring back Indians stranded in the coronavirus-hit nation. According to the Indian Air Force, its C-17 Globemaster military aircraft left for Iran from the Hindon airbase at 8.30 pm. “An IAF C-17 ‘Globemaster’ aircraft got airborne today at 2030 hrs from Hindan airbase to airlift Indian citizens from Iran. The aircraft has a specialist medical team onboard. Indian citizens will be flown to Hindan where medical facilities including quarantine have been set up,” the IAF tweeted.

The C-17 aircraft “will return to India in the early hours tomorrow morning. IAF is ensuring the required operational and medical measures are in place for an expeditious and safe return of Indian citizens from Iran”, it said in another tweet.

About 2,000 Indians are living in Iran, a country that has witnessed increasing numbers of coronavirus cases in the last few days.

According to latest reports, 237 people have died of the coronavirus infection in Iran while the number of positive cases stands at around 7,000.

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Monday made a surprise visit to Kashmir and met parents of students stranded in coronavirus-hit Iran as well as tourism industry representatives, assuring both groups that the government was seized of their problems and all would be well.

Jaishankar, whose visit was kept under a veil of secrecy, drove straight from the airport to the Kashmir International Convention complex, where around 100 parents of students stranded in Iran had gathered.

It is the second such evacuation by the C-17 Globemaster in the last two weeks.

On February 27, 76 Indians and 36 foreign nationals were brought back from the Chinese city of Wuhan by the aircraft of the Indian Air Force.

The aircraft had also taken a consignment of medical supplies to China to help it deal with the crisis.

The C-17 Globemaster is the largest military aircraft in the Indian Air Force’s inventory. The plane can carry large combat equipment, troops and humanitarian aid across long distances in all weather conditions.

Three days ago, a Mahan airline plane brought swab samples of 300 Indians from Iran to India.

The Union Health Ministry was initially considering setting up a laboratory in Iran to test Indians living in the country for coronavirus. However, the plan was shelved due to logistical issues.

India has so far reported 43 coronavirus cases. According to reports, the number of cases of novel coronavirus worldwide has crossed 1,10,000 in 100 countries and territories with more than 3,800 dead.

Italian Hospitals Short Of Beds

As Death Toll Jumps To 366

Hospitals in the locked-down Italian region of Lombardy are beginning to run out of beds as the country recorded its highest day-on-day rise in deaths from coronavirus. Twenty days into its outbreak, Italy is grappling to contain the spread of the virus and find space and beds in intensive care units, which are dwindling day by day. To manage the emergency, the sick are being placed in operating rooms or in hospital corridors. “I am very concerned,” said Prof Massimo Galli, the director of infectious diseases at Sacco hospital in Milan. “The pressure on hospitals in Lombardy these days is enormous. I am very, very worried about the impact the virus will have on our health system.” The whole of Lombardy, including Milan, Italy’s financial capital, and 14 provinces across the worst-affected northern regions encompassing more than 15 million people, have been shut down until 3 April, under measures not seen since the second world war.

Police checks are under way at railway stations, toll booths, roads entering and leaving internal cities, and airports. Those who have to leave the region out of serious necessity can do so only if they have self-certification stating that they must cross the Lombardy border for compelling business reasons, health reasons and or because they have to return to their homes

The prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, gloomily cited Winston Churchill as evidence that great nations persevere when the going gets tough. “These days, I have been thinking about the old speeches of Churchill – it is our darkest hour but we will make it,” Conte told La Repubblica newspaper.

Coronavirus deaths in Italy increased from 233 to 366 on Monday, a rise of more than 50% in 24 hours, with the total number of cases of the virus at 7,375. Among these people, 650 are in hospital intensive care, 399 of them in Lombardy, which added 40 new cases in one day.

There are about 500 available beds for intensive care in Lombardy’s public health sphere, with another 160 in private care facilities. Despite a massive effort to locate additional space there are still not enough.

The emergency commissioner and civil protection chief, Angelo Borrelli, announced that 13 patients had been transferred or were on the way to neighbouring regions for their care.

Negative-pressure isolation rooms, designed to contain airborne contaminants, are needed to treat coronavirus properly, to protect doctors and medical technicians from contracting the virus from the patients in their care.

“Just a small portion of the patients affected by Covid-19 in Lombardy are hospitalised in negative pressure rooms,” said Galli. “The majority is not, and this is a dangerous problem because it can lead to transmission to other patients and medical staff throughout an entire hospital.”