Hundreds of Indian nationals in Australia are pleading to the Indian government to repatriate them home, while many more Australian citizens and nationals remain stranded in India unable to return to Australia.
A group of almost 200 people have appealed to the Indian High Commission to help them return to India amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. A loss of income and concerns over health care has prompted the move.
“We can understand it might be tough for everyone as the country is struggling to juggle everything at the moment, but I hope you can understand where we are coming from. Please let us know if it is at all possible. We would just like to urge you to consider our humble request for us to come back to our country,” an appeal reads.
Almost 200 people have requested the Indian government return them home.
India has extended its ban on all scheduled international commercial passenger flights until midnight local time on April 14, 2020.
Ram Tiwari lost his job three weeks ago.
"I am not able to pay my rent. I am using the bond money to pay the rent for some time. But how long will that go? I have no source of income. My savings are going away too.”
Mr Tiwari, from the state of Maharashtra in India, arrived in Australia in September last year on a 482 work visa.
“I am on a work visa. I need a sponsor for my visa. Now that I don’t have a job, I am stranded. The market is down, and there is little chance of me getting a job,” he said.
Hundreds of students are also in a similar position. Anushka Singh is on a student visa. She had a casual job at a retail store.
“So many casual and part-time workers have been sacked from work," she said.
"And the situation is getting worse. We have to pay rent here, which is probably $200 a week. So even if some money comes from the home, it is not easy for everybody to survive here and ask for money to buy grocery and other necessities.”
Anushka Singh had booked her flight back to India for Friday last week, but India closed its border, and she could not leave.
And Anushka is not alone.
“Many had booked their flight to India soon after the regular classes were shifted to online classes. We were waiting for that, and now we can go back home and study online too,” she says.
On Thursday, the Indian government, which has put the entire country into lockdown for 21 days, announced it was extending its ban on all scheduled international commercial passenger flights until midnight local time on April 14, 2020.
Australia shut down its border to all visitors, except for citizens and permanent residents and their close family members, on March 19. The Australian government has banned its citizens and permanent residents from travelling overseas. However, it says exemptions may apply to a limited range of travellers, including people ordinarily resident in a country other than Australia.
“No country has banned its citizens. Why is India not allowing us? Keep us quarantined for 20 days but allow us to come home,” Ram Tiwari said.
The students say they will feel safer in India during the crisis.
"None of us is saying that we will not do the quarantine. Everybody is ready to be quarantined. We just want to get back to our country because we will feel safer there," said Anushka Singh.
"If anybody falls sick right now, even if it is just a viral, it is not covered under the international students' insurance. They will have to pay and it's very expensive. If somebody has a normal cold or cough now, they cannot go the GP. It is very scary."
Ram Tiwari claims Indian officials have contacted him and he has shared the details of more than 160 people also in dire need.
SBS Hindi has approached the Indian High Commission for comment and a response is awaited.
Australians stuck in India
Meanwhile, many Australians in India are stranded with no means to get home following India's three-week lockdown and cancellation of international flights.
Australia's High Commissioner-Designate to India, Barry O'Farrell says that after April 14th there's no guarantee that there'll be sufficient flight options to bring stranded Australians home or that the ban won't be extended.
Mr O'Farrell is encouraging those who want to leave India to ring airlines now before flights resume.
Australians must stay at least 1.5 metres away from other people. Indoors, there must be a density of no more than one person per four square metres of floor space.
If you believe you may have contracted the virus, call your doctor (don’t visit) or contact the national Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080.
If you are struggling to breathe or experiencing a medical emergency, call 000.
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