Indian students and professionals in Latvia seek help from government

 thehindu.com  03/26/2020 19:55:18 

At least 173 Indian students stuck in Latvia in eastern Europe have started an online campaign seeking help from the Indian authorities. The students, along with several stranded Indian nationals, are demanding that they should either be evacuated or the government should provide them immediate financial support as they are stranded in capital Riga because of the cancellation of international air services in view of the coronavirus crisis. Speaking over phone, several students and professionals said that they were prevented from boarding international flights to India before the flights were cancelled.

No assurance

We are studying in various universities of Latvia and have not yet received any assurance from the Indian authorities. We do not have enough money and cannot survive here for long if the lockdown prevents us from returning home in India, said Abhishek Sangwan, a student of the ISMA University of Riga. Mr. Sangwan, who hails from Haryana, said that many students were unaware of Indias decision to shutdown air services and were planning to return but found themselves stranded as both countries went into lockdown.

He informed that Latvia, which has reported at least 221 cases of coronavirus infection is unable to provide any help, though none of the Indian communitys members have so far displayed symptoms of infection. The country has declared a state of emergency and shut its borders with neighbouring countries.

Medical attention

There are, however, students who are ailing and require immediate medical attention. Gaurang Divyakant Patel of Ahmedabad, who is also studying in Riga, said that he had a lung surgery in India last year and would like to return home as soon as possible as he is afraid of not getting sufficient medical attention in Latvia at this moment.

Because of my pre-existing medical condition, it is necessary that I stay near my family at this time, said Mr. Patel. Latvia does not have an Indian embassy, and the Embassy of India in Sweden is accredited to Latvia. The physical distance between the Swedish capital of Stockholm and Riga is also a hindrance for Indians who have been trying to reach out to the Indian authorities unsuccessfully.

Difficult to cope

Apart from the students, there are at least 24 businessmen and professionals who are also seeking help from the Indian government. Rajeev Malhotra, an entrepreneur said his air ticket was cancelled after air services were suspended on last Sunday. Business has come to a halt here in Riga. My family, back in India, which includes my young daughter and wife, are finding it extremely difficult to cope with the situation. I need to be back home with my family in these trying times. I also cannot sustain living in Riga indefinitely, said Mr. Malhotra in an email requesting urgent help from the Indian authorities.

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