As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to hijack normal human activities, it is also proving to be a distressing cause for Indian citizens stranded abroad. These Indian passport holders are not citizens of the countries they reside currently in, and as such, their worries are only exacerbated.
Europe, USA, UK and other western countries are places nobody wants to be in right now since the disease has ravaged large swathes of the populace in countries like these. For Indians, returning to their motherland is also a distant dream, as India has halted all commercial flights until further notice.
The Indian consulates are doing all they can to help such citizens. Helpline numbers have been set up and advisories are being given to all to not panic, and for the people to stay put.
The Indian diaspora has meanwhile extended its help to their brothers and sisters who are stranded and in urgent need of accommodation and other utilities. For Indian students in the United States, hoteliers of Indian origin have arranged for over 5000 rooms, both in their hotels, as well as homes. The hoteliers first floated the idea through a social networking group that included only four members. But the idea gradually picked up momentum with other hoteliers who also pitched in later and opened doors to students finding trouble in returning home, ANI reported.
A Boston-based hotelier, Neerav Patel told ANI, “Those in need have to contact the Indian Embassy’s helpline, who will then contact the hoteliers and the hotels who are donating their room for this cause. We will provide them shelter once we have the information.”
In Canada, meanwhile, estimates suggest that there may be more than 3 Lakh Indian passport holders, 2 Lakh of which are students alone. Owing to the closure of educational institutions and also part-time employment opportunities, such individuals are caught in a tough spot. Hence, to provide some relief, Indo-Canadian organizations have stepped in.
The Indo-Canadian Association in Kingston, Ontario, the Gurdwara Dukh Niwaran and Sikh Cultural Center in British Columbia, the Gujarati Group of Brampton, Ontario, Hindu Heritage Center in Mississauga, Khalsa Aid Canada and stores in Montreal, as well as numerous temples and Gurdwaras across Canada are among those that have offered services to those in need like students and seniors. These include tiffin and groceries, assistance with accommodation, delivery of medicines, and transportation, reported The Hindustan Times.
In an interview to WION, Indian envoy to Australia, Gitesh Sarma pointed out that the consulate, in collaboration with various diaspora organizations has been involved in various relief efforts to the stranded Indian nationals in Australia, particularly the student community. He also informed that there are close to 2.5 Lakh Indian nationals in Australia at the moment, 90,000 of which are students. To quote him from the interview, he said, “To take care of the immediate and urgent needs of the affected Indian nationals, especially the Indian students facing financial hardship, a nationwide system has been set up with partner diaspora organisations, with assistance from the Mission to provide take away meals and basic provisions. Till now, around 30,000 meal packs/grocery kits have been distributed to needy persons. We are happy to say that the Indian diaspora has taken, in many instances, its own initiatives to provide relief to stranded Indians.”
He also informed that the Indian Mission was working closely with the Indian Medical Association of Australia and other organizations to set up “virtual clinics”, so as to enable basic access to the health care system.
Indian High Commissioner to the UK, Ruchi Ghanshyam, while speaking to DNA, echoed similar sentiments, clearly indicating that Indian diaspora was extending all help possible to stranded Indian nationals in the UK, like other countries. She said that she was overwhelmed by the relief efforts which the diaspora organizations were involved in. Such organizations have been providing subsidized food and accommodation to needful Indian citizens in the UK.
It is clear that the Indian diaspora is stepping in without wasting a single wakeful moment to extend help to their brothers and sisters from India. At a time of a global pandemic, they are setting an example as to how we must support each other, so that we can brave the magnanimous crisis which we are faced with.