A group of more than a hundred Indians stranded in New Zealand waiting for Vande Bharat Mission’s next repatriation flight is requesting the Indian High Commission to arrange a direct flight to Ahmedabad, via Mumbai. 

The office of the Indian High Commission has earlier announced two flights to New Delhi under the New Zealand leg of the Vande Bharat Mission on August 8 & 13, which were subsequently postponed, with an announcement on new dates still awaited. 

The prospects of travelling to New Delhi, and being quarantined in the capital city as per the requirements of the Ministry of Civil Aviation of India, before eventually travelling to the Indian state of Gujarat, is too much of a hassle for a lot of potential travellers because of their old age. 

Sujal Shah, who is organising a group which has 114 people so far keen to travel directly to Ahmedabad told the Indian Weekender that they are appealing to the Indian High Commission to look into their request with compassion. 

“A lot of potential travellers are parents, who were visiting New Zealand to meet their children who are in New Zealand on long term visas and therefore it is very difficult for them to go through all the hassles in New Delhi airport and deal with uncertainty,” Sujal said. 

About 1600 Indians stranded in New Zealand have been repatriated home in nine direct flights from early June to July earlier this year, travelling to seven different destinations in India, namely, New Delhi, Chandigarh, Hyderabad, Chennai, Trivandrum, Ahmedabad and Mumbai. 

However, notably, a majority of travellers repatriated in that first phase of repatriation included those who were travelling New Zealand for leisure, tourism, or short-term work reasons, before being stranded in the country due to lockdown and global travel restrictions. 

It seems that now this next cohort of potential travellers keen to returning India includes mostly parents of NZ citizens or residents or those on student and work visas, and have arrived in the country on long term parent category visas. 

“In our group, we have almost 50 per cent elderlies who are worried about the prospect of managing requirements in Delhi airport that includes arranging quarantine facilities and changing the connecting flights to their final destination,” Sujal said. 

“Most of these parents are not usual international travellers and had previously travelled to New Zealand either with the assistance of others including common acquaintances or airline staff and are now being worried about managing the forthcoming journey back home,” Sujal said. 

Eva John Canara arrived with her husband on a visitor visa to see their daughter Ruby before being stuck in lockdown and global travel restrictions. She lost her husband in early July and is now expectedly sad and depressed. The feeling of travelling alone and managing change of flight in New Delhi is putting further mental stress on her, Sujal told the Indian Weekender. 

Harshad and Lata Shah, an elderly couple had hoped after seeing that Vande Bharat Mission flights were sent to many smaller destinations like Chandigarh, Kochi, Hyderabad and others in the first phase, a direct flight to Ahmedabad would again be offered. 

Many such Indians stranded in NZ and keen to travel back India is hoping that there could be one flight direct to Ahmedabad, via Mumbai. 

Responding to this request the High Commissioner of India Muktesh Pardeshi told the Indian Weekender that his office is constantly in touch with the authorities in India including Air India and was working on a number of options to get stranded people back home. 

“As part of Vande Bharat Mission, the Government has roped in private charter flights to repatriate stranded Indians. We have facilitated two such flights from NZ to Ahmedabad and Kochi. The High Commission would surely help in any such initiative and facilitate in obtaining approvals from authorities in India. Such groups should contact the High Commission for further guidelines,” Mr Pardeshi said. 

The Indian Weekender had earlier reported on Friday, August 7 that 222 stranded Indians were repatriated on a Charter flight arranged by a South Auckland based tour operator Sehion Travels.

Meanwhile, the group is also  requesting the High Commission's office to announce the new flight schedule soon, and also confirm the passengers eventually travelling in those flights so that the passengers gets enough time in advance to make necessary preparations. 

"We need to arrange for the mandatory Covid-19 tests so as to produce a negative report at the Indian airport, along with arranging  for necessary money and purchase tickets online. 

"Given that now a majority of travellers are senior citizens and less internet savy, expecting them to complete all paper work and transactions in 24 hour window is not reasonable," Sujal said.