Grim picture of India burning in Covid wave


Family members and ambulance workers in PPE kits carry the bodies of victims who died of the Covid-19 coronavirus at a crematorium in New Delhi on April 27, 2021 (Photo: PRAKASH SINGH/AFP via Getty Images).
Family members and ambulance workers in PPE kits carry the bodies of victims who died of the Covid-19 coronavirus at a crematorium in New Delhi on April 27, 2021 (Photo: PRAKASH SINGH/AFP via Getty Images).

 

By Amit Roy

THE images of cremation grounds all over India show the country is burning – literally – during the current pandemic in the country. The crisis has rede­fined the idea of what is home.

Many still tend to think of In­dia as the “mother country”. For me, one comment stood out from a returning Indian who managed to beat last Friday’s (23) 4am deadline before India was placed on the “red list”.

He told Radio 4’s Today after landing at Heathrow: “I feel like kissing the ground.”

I thought about his throwaway remark which reinforces the no­tion that India is a country that Indians settled in the UK visit for weddings, family occasions, business and emergencies when elderly parents are taken ill, but Britain is now “home”.

From now on Indian nationals are banned from coming to the UK until the country is taken off the red list. Indians who are Brit­ish nationals or have residence rights are allowed to return, but have to quarantine in a hotel at a cost of nearly £2,000.

Airlines have clearly been profiteering during this period.

Biju Mathew, a social services manager from Walsall who was in India visiting family, said he had to get back to work. He packed within half an hour with­out saying a proper goodbye to his parents so he could beat the deadline. “Eventually, a friend in the UK managed to book me a ticket from Mumbai to Manches­ter,” said Biju, who had to fork out £2,000 for the one-way flight.

The UK government should certainly introduce a concession for students.

Rohish Mirje, 23, has a flight booked to the UK next Tuesday (4) to complete his master’s de­gree at Warwick University. He had returned home to Sangli in Maharashtra from Coventry at Christmas, but after paying more than £30,000 in tuition and ac­commodation fees, he is now faced with having to fork out £1,700 to quarantine in the UK.

He said: “I would urge the UK to give us a discount or exemp­tion on this, or even make a strict rule that we quarantine in hos­tels or accommodation.

“This is affecting thousands of students in India and we are not coming for tourism, we are here for education. When I heard about the travel ban it was like all the dreams were scattering. It’s been a difficult time for us.”

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