Britons in Punjab, stranded and scared

Tuesday 07th April 2020 06:45 EDT

Thousands of British nationals remain stranded across the Indian state of Punjab even as the UK Foreign Office has started a series of repatriation flights from Goa, Mumbai, and Delhi. Whilst Asian Voice had previously reported about chartered flights successfully evacuating Britons from Kolkata and Goa, Britons in Punjab have now raised concerns about their condition.

“My grandparents suffer from Type 2 diabetes, Angina, and arthritis in the back and hip. My father is retired and has back and knee problems along with mental health issues and walks with a stick. Due to the COVID-19 lockdown, we have not been able to get my grandparents their prescribed NHS medicine. My grandmother struggles to get out of bed some days due to the heat, making her back worse, and we are constantly on a limited food supply owing to a lockdown in India as well,” said Rumnique Matharu in a statement to Asian Voice.

A British national from East London and Birmingham, Rumnique with her parents, sister and elderly grandparents are currently stranded in Jalandhar, Punjab. She explains that they had originally booked their return tickets to the UK for a 3 am flight on 19th March. India had officially sealed its domestic and international borders to curb the spread of coronavirus from 25th March for 21-days. This lockdown officially ends on 14th April. But even before this lockdown many airlines had already cancelled flights or stopped their services due to low traffic. In a desperate appeal to the British government, Rumnique said,

“We require the UK to help us to get home because we are unable to get help out here- for medicines or food as there is police patrolling outside our gates where we are staying. If we step out then they either shout or threaten us. We managed to get some medicines for them after a few weeks from a local pharmacy. However, they were not the correct ones.”

Official government sources believe that thousands of British nationals are stranded in the Indian state of Punjab besides Rumnique. This also includes parents of Paramdeep Sehdev popularly known as Bobby Friction.

The specially chartered flights for the evacuation of British nationals started operating after Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab announced a £75 mn bailout package for those stranded across the world. However, those stranded in Punjab continue to write to their local MPs and FCO authorities in desperate need to receive an update about their status quo.

A British High Commission spokesperson in Delhi said, “We are looking to arrange flights from other locations in India, where we know there are large numbers of British nationals. We will publish these on our travel advice and social media channels as soon as they are confirmed.” 

In the meantime, The Punjab government has asked foreign travellers who have arrived in Punjab after 30 January 2020 to provide the following details. This is essential for those who have not been contacted by civil administration, health and police department so far. Details can be submitted on [email protected] or on WhatsApp number +91 9779920404. Please include the following: 

  1. Name of person:
  2. Father/Mother name:
  3. Name of airport and date of landing in India
  4. Date of arrival in Punjab
  5. Addresses 
    • Permanent (in passport)
    • Present stay
    • Hotel. If any
  6. Places of visit in Punjab
  7. Contact details 
    • Mobile no
    • Landline no
    • Email id

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