Scholars in Kaliningrad say they already booked a flight home via
A host of countries around the world have entered fresh lockdowns amid a second wave of the COVID-19 outbreak. Russia is no exception, with
Most of these medical students hail from Maharashtra, and had air tickets to come here on a flight going via Doha. But according to them, the Indian Embassy in Russia instructed that they will not be allowed to take any hopping flight to come home, leaving them in a dilemma about their travel.
Now, these students have written an urgent letter to the Indian government, seeking help to be allowed to board Wednesday’s flight, which they have already spent money on.
The scholars of the Immanuel Kant Baltic Federal University in Kaliningrad mostly reside in Pune, Mumbai and Kolhapur, and have been away from home ever since the pandemic first broke out. While they did not attempt the trip back during the first lockdown, they are now desperate to return to their families, saying this health crisis may go on for a much longer time.
Speaking to Mirror from Russia, Aftab Rajmuddin Shaikh, a third-year MBBS student hailing from Pune, said, “With the risk of a second wave ramping up here, the Russian government is already preparing for a second lockdown. Since we are foreign students, our university officials intimated us that we can leave before the lockdown is imposed and attend our classes online.”
He added that with this clear communication from the varsity, the 140 students immediately booked air tickets on a flight out of Moscow, which takes a halt at Doha and then touches down in Delhi. “There was no specific travel advisory out from the Indian government, so we booked tickets on pretty much the first flight to India — some of us got tickets for Wednesday, others for Thursday. As a precautionary measure, we thought of checking with the Indian embassy once. But, when we called there, we got a huge shock. Officials literally scolded us for taking a flight with a transit,” shared Aftab.
The students claimed that Indian embassy officials even told them to cancel these tickets. Sankalp Gaikwad, a fourth-year MBBS student who hails from Kolhapur, revealed, “They asserted that we can only book tickets of a direct flight to India. They also threatened that if we do not cancel the tickets, we will not be allowed to board the flight. We have already spent around Rs 40,000 per ticket and will hardly get any of it back on cancellation. If we delay our travel further and lockdown is announced here, it will be really difficult to fly out of Russia. We are requesting the Indian government to help us board this flight for which we already have tickets. Please let us come back to India.”
Naturally, the family members of the students are also anxious about the fate of their children. Aftab’s elder brother Amin Shaikh, who resides in the Pimpri-Chinchwad area, said, “We saw several Indians stranded in foreign countries when the first lockdown was announced. We do not want our kids to be stuck in Russia for an indefinite period of time. When they already have tickets, we cannot understand why the embassy is forcing them to cancel these and pay for a direct flight, on the brink of afresh lockdown. When they reach, we are ready to follow all prescribed protocols of distancing and quarantine. But the embassy is just not cooperating with the students.”
On the condition of anonymity, a family member of another student said, “We are not well off. We took a loan to send our son to study medicine in Russia. Now, if he has to cancel a ticket worth Rs 40,000 and book another one of the same amount, it will be too much for us. We beseech the Indian government to be considerate in this time of a pandemic and help our children come back to us.”
Mirror tried to contact the Indian Embassy in Russia and mailed their official email ID, but there was no response to queries at the time of going to print.