Over 30 tourists and seafarers from Maharashtra, including Mumbai, Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad, along with dozens of other Indians, have been stranded in Sri Lanka since the nationwide lockdown was imposed and international flights were halted by the central government. All their efforts to go back, by seeking help from the Ministry of External Affairs and the Indian Embassy in Sri Lanka, have failed to yield any results.
Some of them, who are from Maharashtra, have urged Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar to intervene.
“We are a group of nearly 80 Indians stranded here in Sri Lanka. At least 25-30 are from Maharashtra. We are stuck here since March 22. Many of us had our flights before March 22, which got cancelled due to other reasons. Many of us had booked return flights on April 1. We are here on tourist visas and just like tourists. we had come here with a finite budget. But with the lockdown extending, the chances of us getting back to India seem low. We are also running out of money,” said Mahesh Basudkar, a resident of Pimpri-Chinchwad, who went to Colombo on a tourist visa.
Basudekar said “it is becoming difficult to survive” as a strict curfew has been placed in many parts of Lanka. “Even the hotels are working with reduced manpower and food,” he said.
Urging the Ministry of External Affair to take take cognisance of “the grave situation,” Basudekar said, “We are all desperately waiting for some relief from the Indian government. We expect them to arrange for flights to bring Indians back home.”
Nitin Tandel, a resident of Thane, said, “We had approached the Indian Embassy in Sri Lanka, but officials said they were helpless. We have tweeted to the Prime Minister’s Office and the External Affairs Minister to rescue us, but so far there has been no response from them. We all are in a desperate situation, we want to go back home. We hope the Indian government will initiate some urgent steps in this regard,” he said.
Sandeep Nalawade, a resident of Saki Naka in Mumbai, said, “There are nearly 30 seafarers in this group… I came to Negombo on March 5. The hotel I am staying here has not reduced it’s tariff… As the lockdown has been extended, it’s becoming difficult to bear the expenses day by day. I have been surviving on noodles, and rationing even that as other food is not easily available. Our families are worried… many of us have elderly parents at home and they are alone. We are all under tremendous mental pressure”.
Even as they are waiting for the central government to respond, the stranded tourists and seafarers have urged the Maharashtra government to rescue them. “We have also sent out appeals to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and to Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, as well as BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis… to rescue us from this difficult situation,” said Basudkar.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines