Indians stuck in Oz sore with the embassy

National Travel

Say it does not respond to calls; but others happy

Hyderabad: A few Indians stranded in Australia have been suffering due to a lack of proper communication from the Indian High Commission in Canberra.

“I have called them almost every day, but they haven’t responded even once to my calls or emails,” said Janith Chandra Sai, who is pursuing his masters at Deakin University.

Vande Bharat Mission, a repatriation program was launched by the government of India to bring back lakhs of Indians stranded in different countries around the world. Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) spokesperson, Anurag Srivastava, in the recent weekly virtual meeting, said that as of October 15, 18.3 lakh Indians around the world had been repatriated through different modes of transportation.

Another student, Tanvi Maheshwari, studying at Swinburne University, said the Indian embassy never properly responded to her enquiries and asked her to refer to the official website for updates. She had been calling them to seek information that wasn’t available on the site.

Mahesh Kumar, deputy secretary of the MEA media team, responded to The Observer via email and said that the High Commission has safely repatriated almost 19,000 Indians through 84 flights. “Every possible measure has been taken by the MEA to ensure proper information, guidance, and assistance is made available to the needy and the diaspora. The welfare of our nationals and diaspora continues to remain our highest priority.”

Although a few people are suffering due to a lack of proper information, some other people said the commission has done a really good job in guiding them to reach India.

Kankamedala Vardini, who went to Australia to visit her daughter, was stuck there for a while as the flights weren’t operating due to the pandemic. She said the High commission responded to her very well and helped her to reach India safely. “Maybe because I am a senior citizen suffering from health issues, they prioritized me. I am happy to be back home and thankful to the High Commission.”

Sai Kumar, another Indian stuck in Australia, said he contacted various organisations to get information on the Vande Bharat Mission. Most of them tried to cheat him by asking for money. Finally, when he contacted the embassy, they guided him on the right path by giving him the required information. However, he is still stuck in Australia and waiting for more flights to start so that he can come back home.

Mahesh Kumar of MEA also said they have established a 24/7 emergency helpline and a chatbox on the website to assist people. They have partnered with diaspora organisations to provide basic needs to Indians stuck in Australia.

However, Janith Chandra Sai said he lost his job due to the four lockdowns in Australia and has run out of money. He is desperately waiting for the Indian High Commission to get him back home. “They need to improve the communication process and quickly respond to queries.”

In the seventh phase of the Vande Bharat Mission, the MEA has scheduled seven more flights from Australia to India with a capacity of 243 passengers per flight. In this phase, some more Indians stranded in Australia are likely to come home. With private airlines still not operating flights, stranded Indians remain dependent on the Vande Bharat Mission.

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