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Kendriya Hindi Sansthan, Agra where the students attended.

BOBIE-LEE DIXON

[email protected]

Four Trinidadian students stuck in India are asking the Government for an exemption to return home.

The four were currently studying in Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India, after receiving a scholarship under the Hindi Scholarship Programme 2019-2020, issued by the government of India and facilitated by the High Commission of India.

In an email interview, one of the four explained they were carded to return to T&T on May 3, 2020, but had been trying to get back to their homeland after the World Health Organisation declared COVID-19 a pandemic.

“We left Trinidad on August 5, for this nine-month programme carded to end on April 29, 2020,” the student stated.

The student added, “The ticket was booked for us by the school since August 2019. Since India has now extended its lockdown to May 3, our flights have now been cancelled and it falls under our institution’s responsibility to re-book tickets. No information has yet been forthcoming from them with regards to this. An additional cause for concern is our student visas, which will expire on May 9.”

The students claimed on March 15, before the T&T Government shut down its borders, they made requests to the High Commission of India in Trinidad, the Trinidad Embassy in New Delhi as well as the authorities at their school to facilitate their immediate return to Trinidad since their scheduled departure was in any case near.

However, instead, according to their claims, the focus was placed on completion of their final examinations which was made a priority even though they explained that travel bans were inevitably going to be placed and time was of the essence. They say those examinations have since been cancelled.

Asked to describe the current situation in Agra as well as their accommodations, they said at the hostel where they remain it was less than comfortable especially under lockdown conditions.

Online statistics state, to date Uttar Pradesh, the Indian State in which Agra lies, there have been 1,294 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 20 deaths. Together India has reported a confirmed 18,985 cases.

The students say 21 hotspot areas have also been identified within Agra where restrictions have been imposed heavily and no one is allowed to step outside there homes and road travel is not allowed in those parts of the district.

“Our hostel is located near one hotspot area which makes the delivery of certain items previously accessible, now unavailable to us. We have been given masks in our hostel which are only used in collecting items at the gate since we are not allowed to leave otherwise,” said one student.

Another added, “We’re all just concerned about our position should we end up having to stay in India for an extended period and if we’d be able to get home anytime soon. The living conditions are not comfortable as previously outlined and we are not equipped to deal with it for much longer.”

They claim their return flight was included in their scholarship and purchasing tickets independently was too costly.

“After travel bans were placed first in Trinidad then in India, understanding the nature of the situation, we were left with no choice but to stay in our hostel and await the lifting of travel restrictions, which is what we were trying to avoid when we took action early on. However extensions are now unpredictable with no real deadline in sight,” said one student.

“We are just asking that if we can get our flight out of India, will an exemption be made for us to enter Trinidad? Or should the lockdown be extended beyond April 30, will there be a temporary lift to allow nationals on the outside to come back home? We understand the severity of the pandemic, but we plead at least for nationals to be allowed home. We agree to comply with any quarantine measures deemed necessary,” the students petitioned.