With no source of income, no help from Centrelink, rent and other liabilities increasing and a job at stake, returning to Australia is a matter of survival for Madhukar Nimala.
Stuck in India for over three months, Mr Nimala has left no stone unturned to return home in Melbourne. However, due to a series of unfortunate events and meagre resources, he and his family are still bearing the cost of the coronavirus pandemic.
Currently, only Australian citizens, residents and immediate family members can travel to Australia.
More than 5000 people have returned in the recent weeks.
India has extended a ban on international flights.
Listen to Madhukar Nimala's story in his own words:
Many Australians have returned since the Australian High Commission in India started the repatriation campaign from India. Mr Nimala managed to book the tickets twice only to cancel later.“Demand is so high that all the tickets are sold within minutes of opening up. I have been trying to book the tickets every time. I succeeded one time on 22 May, but at that time there was no domestic flight for us (to travel from Hyderabad to Delhi due to local lockdown.) So we had to cancel the ticket,” said Mr Nimala.
“And then AHC organised two more Qantas flights from Chennai. They put us on a priority list because we have an infant with us. But, they could not manage a ticket for us because of too many infants on the flights.”
“Yesterday I managed to book three tickets for me, my wife and our son. Money was deducted from my account, but they said it had not gone through, so our tickets were cancelled again.”
And now, Mr Nimala says, he does not have enough funds to buy more tickets so he will have to make further arrangements.
There are several Aussie-Indians with similar stories. They travelled to India before the lockdown was announced and had been struggling to return since.
With the delay, financial stress is rising on these families.
Madhukar Nimala, who works as a manager at a service station, says his job is at stake.
“My manager has been calling me because he needs people to manage the store.”
He is renting a home in Melbourne and has to pay the rent and other bills.
“We have to $1500 rent and other expenses like power bill, internet bill etc. It is hard to bear because I have a kid and we don’t have any savings at the moment because we just got our permanent residency. So it is a very hard time. I have used all my credit cards, and I am not getting a salary,” says Mr Nimala.
He, like hundreds of others stuck in India, wakes up every morning with a hope that he would be able to book a ticket and return home as soon as possible.
In its latest travel advisory related to COVID-19, the Indian government has announced all international flights will remain banned till 30 June 2020.
According to the Australian High Commission in India, more than 5,600 people have returned from India.
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