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Amid fears of an impending nuclear disaster in Japan, Indian firms based in the quake-affected country are evacuating their employees and their families.

“We have made arrangements for flying back 185 Indians in a chartered Kingfisher Airlines flight early on Friday,” said Sudip Banerjee, CEO of L&T Infotech. Out of the 185 evacuees, 120 are L&T employees while the rest are their family members. The chartered flight will leave for Narita Airport in Tokyo from Chennai after midnight on March 17.

Banerjee added that the company’s Japan operations will be temporarily shifted to offshore sites.

Most Indian information technology (IT) firms have presence in Japan and it is estimated that they collectively have nearly 1,500 Indian employees. Other firms that are in the process of relocating employees include HCL Ltd, Tata Consultancy Services Ltd (TCS) and Infosys Technologies.

While the Indian employees are being recalled to India, their Japanese counterparts are being offered the option of moving to safer locations within their own country.

Concerns about radiation were at the forefront as the situation at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant appeared to worsen. Other governments — Australia and France — too have urged citizens with no reason to stay in Tokyo to return to their respective countries. Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said it made the recommendation because of continuing aftershocks and the quake’s impact on infrastructure and daily life.

However, Prem Keswani, an IT consultant with Unikaihatsu and Software Pvt Ltd in Saitama, 20km from Tokyo, said that the panic over radiation leak has been over-hyped. Keswani said,

“Companies are taking proscribe actions to move their employees for a couple of weeks to other locations such as Osaka, South Korea, China, Hong Kong and Singapore. Our company also has done so. This is not because of radiation leaks but due to increasing pressure from families back in India.”

When asked whether it was safe to eat vegetables, he added, “Not eating vegetables is just a rumour. They are up for sale at normal supermarkets.”

Meanwhile, the Indian Embassy in Japan has claimed that the 25,000-strong Indian community in the quake-ravaged nation is safe. “We are very thankful that there have been no casualties among Indian nationals despite this very major disaster,” said Alok Prasad, the Indian Ambassador in Japan.

He added that Indians stranded in Sendai, one of the worst-affected areas, were moved to the Japanese capital. The embassy has also set up a 24-hour helpline and has been giving regular updates on its website.

“We have been assured by the government of Japan that there is no immediate danger to Tokyo,” he said. The embassy is also working towards facilitating the return of those wishing to leave Japan. “Though we have not issued an advisory for Indian nationals to evacuate Japan, anyone wishing to return to India is free to do so with the national carrier Air India (AI),” he added.

“We have asked AI to put on some additional capacity. The airport is open, functioning normally and people are leaving via other stations like Hong Kong and Singapore.”

An AI spokesperson informed DNA that the airline is operating daily flights between Delhi and Tokyo and has brought back nearly 900 Indians since last Sunday. “We have also decided to waive off all penalties for rebooking, cancellations and refunds on all classes of tickets to and from Japan,” the spokesperson added.

 

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