New Delhi: Caught in the headlights of the unprecedented global crisis due to the outbreak of COVID-19, a legion of at least 435 students from India in the UK - who started a data chain with their personal details to show the urgency through a collective voice - requested for immediate evacuation. UK has over 17,000 confirmed cases of COVID, and at least 1,019 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
Twitter :- https://twitter.com/shashi5803/status/1243908870386388994?s=19
The students are studying at various educational institutions across the UK, and are mostly mariners. Whilst, explaining their harrowing condition, one of stranded, Akhil Dharmaraj, 32 who hails from Cochin, Kerala, explained, “I am from the South Tyneside College and there are many other Indian students from my institute, the City of Glasgow College, the Northumbria University, the Tynecoast College and others. We can send the media a list of more colleges in the UK where Indian students are studying.”
The students have been trying to contact the Indian embassy in the UK from the time the ban on air traffic was imposed. After each individual tried to contact the officials on their own, they decided to make a list of students stranded in the country and forwarded the same to the High Commission there. But, they said that, so far, they have not received any response other than to wait for updates and follow the standard NHS instructions.
When contacted via the internet, a student, Maharshi Paul, 32 from Kolkata, who is pursuing the HND Chief Mates course at the South Shields Marine School, said, “Most of us are worried about the increased price of commodities and the rent for our accommodation. There is a scarcity of sanitisers/gloves/masks, both at the local and online shops. We have to wait in long queues in the mornings to get food and other essentials whose quantity is limited per person. We mostly find the racks in the shops empty. This is because the lockdown is not strictly imposed and the situation remains grim. We have less or no protection against the spread of the virus and most of us share accommodation with other students. We have a common kitchen and a bathroom and in case any of us gets affected, we don't have provisions to isolate ourselves.”
“We are also worried about how we will get treated by the NHS as we don't have any health insurance and are most of us are on a student visa which is valid for six months only,” he added.
The sudden lockdown across the world and the aggressive rate of spread of the virus in the UK have endangered hundreds of Indian mariners and other students and their lives have come to a standstill.
“The situation here is getting worse day by day as most of us are unable to pay our rent with our universities being closed. Some of us are on a business visa and are staying alone in hotels and are apprehensive about the shutdown. The hotels are running out of cleaning staff, putting people in danger of getting infected due to lack of sanitation and hygiene. Women are facing the brunt from the shortage of sanitary items,” said Tanu Sharma, one of the students stranded in the UK.
“The situation will get 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 need our help. We humbly request the Indian Government to get us out of here. We want to go back home at the earliest,” she added.
The students are also in the dark about the rescheduling of their exams while they try and remain in self-isolation in shared apartments and hostels. While many Indians have been evacuated from other countries around the world the students in the UK feel that they have been abandoned and are desperate to make their voice heard by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In these testing times, it is even tough to imagine the extent of hardships these students are facing by being away from their families, trying their best to survive in a virus-infested foreign land. These students are now at the mercy of the Indian government to find their way home.