“Given the present situation of the Novel Coronavirus outbreak in India and the available limited resources, it is not feasible to selectively evacuate Indian citizens from abroad when a large number of them from a number of countries want to return back due to various reasons,” said the Ministry of External Affairs in a statement issued in response to the several lawsuits filed in the Supreme Court of India. The petitions filed with the Supreme Court seek repatriation flights for evacuation of Indian nationals, including students, senior citizens, tourists and migrant laborers, who are currently stranded in the US, the UK, Iran, the Gulf and other countries.
One of the petitions seeking evacuation of stranded Indian citizens from the United States is filed by Vibha Datta Makhija, a senior advocate. She opined that India’s blanket ban for international flights ignoring stranded Indians’ right to return home is in violation of the Constitution. The petition was heard by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.
Picture Credit: Thenational.ae | AFP
Objecting to her statement, the critics of the petition stated that Indian government gave enough time, from March 11 till March 22, to Indians abroad (except OCI card holders) to return to the home country before flights to India from USA and other countries were completely banned with effect on March 23. In response to Vibha Datta Makhija’s petition, the Ministry of External Affairs said that Indians stranded in China’s COVID19 epicenter and Italy were evacuated by Air India flights when the Coronavirus count was pretty low in India. The Ministry added that any number of arrivals from the COVID19-countries could be a risky affair that the government is trying hard to minimize. Therefore, the government advises Indians abroad to stay put wherever they are in close adherence to the precautionary measures and preventive guidelines. Besides, the domestic cases of COVID19 won’t be effectively contained with the divided focus of India’s limited health machinery.
The recent announcement about Air India bookings for international flights starting June 2020 rekindled hopes in the disappointed minds of Indians stranded overseas for return to home. But the civil aviation minister and the Director General of Civil Aviation disappointed them by directing the airlines not to open the booking window as no decision has yet been taken to resume domestic and international flights post lockdown.
Vibha Datta Makhija strongly advocated for repatriation of Indian students from the United States. A significant majority out of the nearly 250,000 Indian students in the USA are stranded owing to the shutdown of university campuses and the entry restrictions in India. “At this time the most advisable thing to do is stay where you are,” said Taranjit Singh Sandhu, India’s ambassador to the US, while addressing hundreds of Indian students during an Instagram Live session coordinated by the Indian Embassy in Washington DC. He assured them help regarding extension of their visas in the current emergency.
Facebook Group for Stranded Indians in USA Seeking Repatriation
US-based Michael Khanna created a voluntary group – USA to India Evacuation Flights – aiming to discuss a contingency plan on petitioning the Indian Embassy in USA to arrange repatriation flights for Indians. More than 1000 Indians in the US have already joined the group. Some of the posts seeking the attention of PMO India, the Ministry of Civil Aviation, the Ministry of External Affairs, and the Indian Embassy in USA to their unavoidable reasons to return/travel to India are trending with such hashtags as #ApnoKoGharLao.
A member of the FB group, USA to India Evacuation Flights, wrote, “Friends, My father is critically ill and literally counting his days. My mother is battling this all by herself and I don’t think she has the nerve to handle the news. We are in constant touch with the doctors from here. We are in dire need to go home, Bangalore, at the earliest. As she’s alone, she is unable to arrange even the basics for herself. She needs our support. My father needs our support. Any help in this regard will be highly appreciated.”
A woman from Hyderabad tweeted pleading with PM Modi and KTR of Telangana for immediate resumption of international flights post lockdown, so that her husband who is stuck overseas can return before she delivers the baby any time in May. Below is one of the many tweets seeking early resumption of flights to India:
@PMOIndia @narendramodi Dear sir, given our population and area of our country, it might take couple more weeks and cases will rise with more testing. Plz, let us go to our home. Plz open limited international ✈️ 4 only Indian citizens nd foreigners leaving india on some airports
— Gurpreet Singh Sidhu (@gurpreetsidhuPE) April 20, 2020
This exclusive article is brought to you by Indian Eagle, a most trusted travel-booking partner of Indians in the USA. Travel Beats, a leading overseas Indian community portal, is a subsidiary of Indian Eagle. Subscribe to our free newsletter for latest community stories, visa and immigration news, and international travel updates.