Stuck abroad, distressed Punjabis await govt help - ECAS Punjab

Stuck abroad, distressed Punjabis await govt help

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Rajmeet Singh

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 7

It was his dream to take his mother on a jaunt to Australia. When Bharat Verma, a Fatehgarh Sahib-based lawyer, left Punjab for Australia on March 12, he was thrilled to be with his mother Ranjita Verma.

Little did the 34 year-old realise that several weeks later, he would be nowhere to returning home with his 58 year-old diabetic mother. He was to fly back on April 3. It has been 56 days of ordeal on a foreign land, with no sign of evacuation in the near future.

Vijay Vidhone, a young Indian on permanent resident status from Melbourne, has given shelter to the lawyer and his mother. Amid the Covid-19 spread, the ban on international flights has left near 3,000 Punjabi travellers like Verma in the lurch, across the globe.

Many on tourist visas have exhausted their funds and are at the mercy of their hosts and friends. Those suffering from chronic diseases are struggling to arrange funds.

Though the Centre has started the exercise to bring back Indians stuck abroad from May 7, the External Affairs Ministry schedule in the first phase to run 64 flights to bring back Indians, including Punjabis, has just one flight from Dubai to Amritsar.

A Bassi Pathana youth stuck in California, Ravi Harjven Singh, is desperate to return home. With funds exhausted and no money to buy tickets, many like him are making frantic calls and sending emails to the office of the Consulate General of India in California to bail them out.

In touch with the office of the Consulate General of India, Melbourne, Verma, in a phone interview, said, “The Indian Embassy in Australia has asked Indians to get themselves registered. I have been told to stay put, as the Indian government has not released any flight schedule. Whenever it is released, those with medical emergencies and women will be preferred. Around 500 Indians are stuck in Australia.”

Three youths, including Malkiat Singh, who are in South Africa, have appealed for evacuation. “Every single day, we wake up and ask for updates, but we are constantly being told to hold on,” Malkiat said.

Back home, the Punjab Government authorities have received near 20,000 requests for evacuation. “We have been facilitating movement of NRIs from the Amritsar airport to their respective countries. For those coming from abroad, we have to depend on the Centre for instructions,” said an official.



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