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Coronavirus: UAE-based parents of university students stuck in India appeal for help

Dhanusha Gokulan (Principal Correspondent)/Dubai Filed on July 8, 2020 | Last updated on July 8, 2020 at 05.39 pm
covid-19, coronavirus, India, UAE, students, stranded, repatriation, suspended flights

(Supplied photo)

Most of the stranded students have already received return approvals from UAE authorities but flights remain suspended in India.

UAE parents, whose varsity-going children have been stranded in India since March, have appealed to authorities to help bring their kids back into the country. 

Some of the Indian youth are stuck at their university campuses, while others were forced to vacate their hostels and fend for themselves, the parents and students lamented as they shared their plight during a virtual Press conference on Wednesday.

On July 3, India's Directorate General of Civil Aviation announced that scheduled international flights will remain suspended until the end of the month and only special flights will be allowed to operate on a case-by-case basis. These flights were suspended on March 22 because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Most of the stranded students have already received return approvals from the UAE's Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship and General Directorate of Residency and Foreign Affairs. However, with no flights to fly them back, many of these papers have already expired. 

Varsity students' plight 

Students studying in public universities - such as the National Institute of Technology (NIT) in the Indian states of Karnataka and Telangana - were asked to vacate their hostels as these were converted into quarantine facilities for Indians returning from abroad. 

Sharing his struggles, NIT student Surathkal Palash Patil said he had to pack his things up and leave his hostel overnight on March 17.

"I got lucky as I started staying with my friend. But the same cannot be said about my friends and juniors who are all locked into a single hostel block. Both men's and women's hostels of NIT were converted into quarantine facilities," said Palash, a mechanical engineering student in his final year at the university. 

While most students still have access to basic necessities, such as food and water, the rising number of Covid-19 cases in India have left them scared and their parents extremely worried. 

Palash's father, Dhirendra Patil, said: "It was supposed to be a two-week lock-in period. It has been more than four months now. Parents are worried about their children's wellbeing. Indian students from other parts of the world, like the UK, Canada, and the US, are coming back. But not from India."

'We do not feel safe'

Majority of the students who spoke at the virtual conference are students of Manipal University, a multi-disciplinary private university in Karnataka. It is home to thousands of students, but because of the pandemic, only a handful remain on campus - most of them are non-resident Indians.  

John Thomas, whose daughter is studying at Manipal Institute of Technology (MIT), said: "Parents are under tremendous pressure. We are not here to blame the authorities, but these are our children and they are suffering there, especially since so many Covid-19 cases are nearby."

At one point, John's daughter Caroline Susan Thomas fell ill for about five days and couldn't go to the hospital.

"Transportation was an issue. Autos and taxis are not plying (their usual routes)," Caroline said.  

She said she has written multiple letters to the authorities, including India's Ministry of Civil Aviation and diplomatic missions, to no avail. 

"Certain buildings on our campus are being converted into quarantine centres. We do not feel safe here," she said.

Stress, anxiety

Anil Warang, whose daughter Trisha Anil studies at MIT, has been counting the days. "It has been 99 days. We are worried our children will take drastic measures because of the mental strain they are going through. I sent my daughter to India thinking she is only a few hours away by flight, in case of emergencies," he said. 

Trisha said: "I am staying at a relative's place now, but I feel like I am overstaying my welcome."

Other Manipal University students Devika Vinod and Keerthana Krishnan added that it has been "physically impossible" to completely isolate themselves, especially as their food is being supplied at the college food courts. There have also been positive Covid-19 cases nearby, they said.  

Parent Aparna Lal said she had to move her daughter to her grandparents' house. "But my parents are old, they are not able to take care of her," she said.




Dhanusha Gokulan

Originally from India, Dhanusha Gokulan has been working as a journalist for 10 years. She has a keen interest in writing about issues that plague the common person, and will never turn down a human interest story. She completed her Bachelor in Arts in Journalism, Economics, and English Literature from Mangalore University in 2008. In her spare time, she dabbles with some singing/songwriting, loves travelling, and Audible is her favourite mobile application. Tweet at her @wordjunkie88

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