The Indian Embassy here has started to contact the Indian nationals who wish to return home once the international travel lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic is lifted.
The move comes days after the Indian government indicated that a decision will be taken to bring back the Indian nationals stranded abroad after assessing the situation. On April 10, the government said a decision to bring Indians stranded abroad will be taken after reviewing the COVID-19 situation.
Ministry of External Affairs Additional Secretary Dammu Ravi said, "Some questions have come about Indians abroad. It is a situation where we cannot give a definite answer because the lockdown is still there. We need to assess the situation… It will be the government's decision on how we manage the return of Indians from other countries."
While the first phase is likely to start with countries in the Gulf region, Indians stranded in the UK, other parts of Europe, and the US will be considered after that.
The Indian Embassy on Wednesday started sending emails to the community organisations and those who reached out to it in recent weeks.
Those interested in travelling back home can register at https://indianembassyusa.gov.in/Information_sheet1. However, no travel dates have been announced yet.
There is no official estimate of the number of Indian citizens stranded in the US due to the deadly coronavirus and unable to go back to India because of the travel restrictions by both India and the US.
However, many of them are said to be Indian students, whose universities have now closed down for the rest of the academic sessions and those who were here on a short visit. Quite a large number of them have run out of money.
"The Indian American community has shown leadership in these difficult times and their spirit of service is commendable. They have been working closely with the Embassy and Consulates to provide assistance to our nationals," India's Ambassador to the US, Taranjit Singh Sandhu said in a tweet.
The Indian Embassy here in coordination with community leaders have been helping these stranded Indian citizens with free accommodation, meals and even financial assistance.
On social media, the Indian envoy has been receiving requests from people who wish to travel back home.
“Kindly please reopen the international flights ASAP, there are more than 1,800 people stranded in the USA and needing your help desperately,” tweeted one Lavan Kumar.
“Please start some flights for Indian citizens on humanitarian grounds. We have critically ill senior citizen parents who are alone and have to be looked after. Please understand our plight and bring this to the notice of the Indian government,” one person pleaded in a tweet to the Indian ambassador.
"Sir, when we can expect our return back to India. We got stuck in the USA. Please help sir," Tushar said in another tweet.
“Indian Embassy and Consulate are available for any emergency and special visa situation. And they are exactly doing that. This is our experience across the country. Almost all speakers complemented the Embassy and consulates for the great working relationship between our diplomatic staff and the community,” said Chicago-based Bharat Barai.
“It was a very good initiative by the Ambassador. We have seen no bureaucracy this time,” he said.
Sewa International president, Sree Sreenath said that help and co-ordination from the embassy is adding a great value to their coronavirus relief work.