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Jaipur couples stranded in ‘expensive’ New Zealand write to PM Modi




Representational image of New Zealand | Pixabay
Representational image of New Zealand | Pixabay

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New Delhi: Two Indian couples stranded in New Zealand by the Covid-19 lockdown have requested the Modi government to arrange for their return home.

In an email dated 21 April that is addressed to the Prime Minister’s Office, the Ministry of External Affairs and the Indian High Commission in Wellington, the Jaipur residents have cited mounting expenses to seek repatriation help

The couples have identified themselves as Pradeep Loiwal, a retired carpet exports businessman, and his homemaker wife Nikita Loiwal, and Sudhir Raniwala and Rashmi Raniwala, both of whom are physics professors at the University of Rajasthan. 

They arrived in New Zealand on 8 March for a vacation, but their plans to return on 27 March were scuppered by the lockdown and the suspension of operations by commercial airlines. According to the couples, there are another 1,000 Indians stranded on the island nation.

“None of us have the resources to continue staying here for extended periods,” states the letter, accessed by ThePrint. They add that New Zealand “is an expensive country” and “we all have our personal and professional responsibilities back in India”. 

The couples say they didn’t have the time to try and “prepone their departure” for India because international flights were stopped at short notice.

Also Read: India’s VIP culture is on full display even in Modi’s ‘stringent’ lockdown

‘We are infection-free’

Thousands of Indians, including students, are believed to be stranded across different countries, especially the US, the UK, Europe and the Gulf, amid travel restrictions imposed to check the coronavirus pandemic.

India initially organised rescue flights for its citizens from Iran and Italy, but, in recent weeks, the battle against the pandemic has been concentrated within the country’s borders. 

The matter of stranded Indians’ repatriation was taken to court but, hearing the case last week, the Supreme Court agreed with the government that such an initiative was not feasible as of now. The government had argued in its affidavit to the court that it had evacuated citizens earlier when the Covid-19 situation in India wasn’t as grim.

However, in their letter, the couples seek to reassure the government that they are free of infection. “New Zealand has been under lockdown for the past four weeks and has successfully controlled the spread of coronavirus here. We have been in isolation since the lockdown was imposed here (26 March 2020). All the stranded Indians here will therefore be Covid-19-infection free,” the letter states, adding that they may still be tested. 

The couples point out that New Zealand is arranging special flights to India to repatriate Kiwis stuck in the nation, and requests New Delhi to arrive at a similar arrangement with Wellington for their return. 

“New Zealand will be sending empty aircraft from here to airlift the citizens from India. It would be great if the government of India and government of New Zealand could come to a bilateral arrangement, whereby on one side the Indians could be repatriated and on the other, the New Zealnders,” states the letter. 

The couples say they have been in touch with the Indian High Commission in New Zealand since 23 March.

Citing the example of flag carrier Air India, which has announced that it will not start any international flight until 1 June, and the lack of clarity regarding the resumption of operations by other commercial flights, they say their only hope of returning to their country at an early date is repatriation by the Indian government. 

The letter also refers to other letters to the MEA. “The replies just say that at present there is no plan of the government to repatriate Indians from New Zealand and we should remain in touch with the high commission.”

New Zealand has so far recorded just over 1,100 cases of Covid-19 and 13 deaths, according to WHO figures for 21 April.

Also Read: India announced lockdown the same time as South Africa but has over 7 times new cases since


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Andhra doctor, suspended for alleging PPE shortage, now beaten by cops for ‘creating nuisance’




doctor with a stethoscope
A doctor with a stethoscope (Representative image) | Pixabay

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Bengaluru: A doctor with a government hospital in Andhra Pradesh, who was suspended for questioning the shortage of PPE kits, was admitted to a mental health facility Sunday, a day after he was allegedly manhandled by the police and arrested for creating nuisance in Visakhapatnam.

Dr Sudhakar Rao, a government civil surgeon, was beaten, his hands tied behind his back and dragged by police officers Sunday. During the incident, Sudhakar allegedly verbally abused the Jagan Mohan Reddy government in an inebriated state. Videos of the incident have since been widely shared online.

“The police control room received a call about a person creating nuisance on Beach Road Hospital in Visakhapatnam. The Fourth Town police was rushed there and found that the person was the suspended doctor, Sudhakar.

“When the police tried to control him, he snatched the mobile phone of an officer and threw it away. He is suffering from mental disorder and he was drunk. He was sent for a medical examination,” Vishakapatnam Police Commissioner R.K. Meena told the media Sunday.

Sudhakar was admitted to a mental hospital Sunday after doctors at the King George Hospital in Vishakapatnam said he suffered from anxiety.

“Since the doctor is in anxiety and talking irrelevant things, I have referred him to a mental care hospital in Visakhapatnam,” said Dr Radha Rani, medical superintendent, King George Hospital.

A statement released by the hospital said: “Dr Sudhakar was brought to the KGH casualty ward at 6.30 pm. From the smell, it was found that he was in a drunk condition. Under the influence of alcohol, he did not cooperate with anybody there and kept abusing all. Still, his pulse, BP were checked. Pulse was 98, BP 140/100. Blood samples were sent to forensic lab to ascertain alcohol content in his blood.”

Also read: 6 toilets for 20 houses, inadequate testing: Why Mumbai’s Worli chawls are a Covid hotspot

‘Treatment towards Sudhakar was inhuman’

Sudhakar, who spent more than 10 years at the Narsipatnam Government Hospital in Andhra Pradesh, was suspended from his duties in March after he openly criticised the Reddy government for failing to provide PPE kits and N95 masks to doctors treating Covid-19 patients.

He had alleged that the state government was giving N95 masks and PPE kits meant for doctors to politicians and the police.

A video of Sudhakar criticising the government was also shared widely. In the clip, he can be heard saying: “We are putting our lives at risk here. We are asked to use the same mask for 15 days and a fresh mask will be provided only twice a month.”

Speaking to ThePrint, Dr P. Gangadhar Rao, member of the National COVID Committee of the Indian Medical Association, said the manner in which Sudhakar was manhandled by the police was “inhuman” and “violated” human rights.

“We strongly condemn the way he was taken into custody. He was not carrying a weapon, he was alone, the number of policemen outnumbered him. Why treat him like that? We also saw a video where a policeman beats him with a lathi,” said Dr Gangadhar.

He added that Rao was one of the most experienced anaesthetists the Andhra Pradesh government had.

“Our next step of action is to get Sudhakar to write an unconditional apology for having used filthy language, abusing the chief minister and the government. We will then take our appeal to the CM seeking that he be reinstated,” Gangadhar said.

Also read: Face shields, gowns, masks — the new attire for cabin crew post lockdown


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