In this time of unprecedented hours of indicated global crisis due to the outbreak of COVID-19, it stands to be the last resort for a legion of at least 435 students from India in the UK those who have started a data chain with their passport details to create a collective voice, so to call for their immediate evacuation.
The UK has over 17,000 confirmed COVID cases, and at least 1019 people have died from the virus, thus far.
Data Chain Created – https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1eXF15Z1vOimgyldZcZ-coxvxpVPXUa9qTt3BTr1Smyk/edit?usp=drivesdk
Videos that the students have created: – https://youtu.be/k837lDpWXcU
The students are from various colleges and institutions distributed over the entire landscape of the UK, and mostly mariners.
Whilst, explaining their distressing condition, one of those stranded student Akhil Dharmaraj, 32 who hails from Cochin, Kerala, expressed, “I am from South Tyneside college and there are lot of other students from my institute and then City of Glasgow College, Northumbria University, Tynecoast College and others. In case Indian media need we can send you all the list where you can find the other colleges too, but there are a lot.”
The students have been trying to contact the Indian embassy in the UK from the time air traffic ban was imposed, people were mailing individually too, later they initiated to make a list as a part of their data chain approach further shared it with the High Commission there but so far they have not received any response other than to wait for updates and follow the standard NHS instructions as being issued.
On the sidelines, when interacted virtually with another student Maharshi Paul, 32 who hails from Kolkata, West-Bengal was there pursuing his HND Chief Mates course at South Shields Marine School said, “Most of us are worried about the increased price of commodities and having to further pay for our accommodation for an indefinite period. We had been trying to get some sanitizers/gloves/masks etc but there is an evident scarcity out at the local shops here and online too. We are going into the long queues in the morning to get our food and essentials, though the quantity is limited per customer, mostly finding all racks empty. So is the case when the lockdown is not so strictly imposed and the situation is not at all good to mention. We are going in unprotected, and mostly all of us live in hostels/apartments shared with other fellow students. We have common kitchen-Bathroom facilities and in case any of us gets affected, we don’t have provisions to isolate ourselves. And, we are worried about how we will get treated in NHS as we don’t have any insurance and are mostly are on student visa valid which is valid only for 6 months.”
The sudden lockdown across the world, and, amidst the aggressive rate of spread in the UK the life of these hundreds of Indian mariners and other students in the UK has come to a standstill with the virus gripping thousands of people daily, these students from India are now at the mercy of the Indian government to bring them back.
“Situations are getting worse here day by day as most of us cannot pay rents since our universities have been closed. Some of us are on business visa and staying alone in the hotels and extremely unsure of their shut down enforcement. Hotel people are also running out of their own cleaning staff here, chances of getting infected are growing higher. Girls are also facing other issues wherein they would not able to survive, for instance, absorbent and sanitation items are already out of stock. We don’t have masks, sanitizers to keep us safe. The situations will be even worse in the coming days if we are not allowed to travel back to India. We have got aged parents and small kids in India who all would need our help at this point of time, it’s a humble request to Indian Government to please help and get us through from here. We want to be in our homes” said, Tanu Sharma one of the stranded students.
In this situation, the students have no information about the rescheduling of their exams as they remain in self-isolation in shared apartments and hostels. While Indians have been evacuated from other countries around the world the legion expressed that they are not sure why they have been abandoned and how they can make their voice heard to Prime Minister Modi. In this testing times for all, it’s sad to imagine how difficult it is for these students to be away from their families right now and survive in a virus-infested foreign land.
(The writer is a Delhi-based independent contributor to print and online publications)