Updated: August 4, 2021 7:44:42 am
For over a week, scores of students, post-doctoral researchers, job seekers and families of those working in the Czech Republic have been running a social media campaign to draw attention to the problems faced by them due to a travel ban imposed by the country since April 2021.
The group claims over 200 students, researchers and job holders are stranded in India, unable to join universities or companies in the Czech Republic, since the country has put India into the category of ‘extreme-risk countries’ during the pandemic and imposed a travel ban. The group, which has also started an online petition for the same, said they have approached all competent authorities including the Ministry of External Affairs, the Indian Ambassador posted in the Czech Republic, the Czech ambassador posted in New Delhi, the Ministry of Interior (Czech Republic), the EU delegation in India, the EU Council and more.
A researcher at IIT Delhi, Stuti Joshi, chose a post-doctoral position at Palacky University in the optics department, over two other choices which she had in the UAE and South Africa. “I was offered the position in January and I filed my visa application in April, soon after which the blanket ban was imposed. Until now, the university has been patient but the problem is my project started a long time ago. Since life has restored to normalcy in Czechia, physical presence is required in labs, schools, universities and offices. Many are now fully vaccinated and most countries are allowing essential travel for students, researchers and employees, but there is no word from Czech Republic officials,” she said.
IT professional Upasana Srivastava from Jhansi quit her job in March this year after being offered a job in the Czech Republic. “I was supposed to join in June but now that my visa is stuck, I am worried. I am the main source of income for my family. As of now, my company is waiting but they won’t do so endlessly and the worst part is the uncertainty as no one will give clear answers on what is the status,” she said.
Indore resident Aditi Ojha spent two weeks with her husband before he returned to his job in the Czech Republic in November 2020. “I applied for my visa in December and in February, they called me to submit my documents. I was asked to furnish proof of health insurance but by the time we completed formalities, they had stopped all travel. My passport is also lying at the Embassy. Maybe family reunification isn’t high on their priority but we are going through hell waiting for the visa,” she said.
IISER researcher Shubhra Sau, who was granted a PhD fellowship and JCMM fellowship to conduct his work at an university in Czech Republic, said the worry of most petitioners is that they are running two or three months late on their projects or contracts.
Saunak Sinha Ray, who was granted the Marie Curie Early Stage Researcher grant to conduct his work at an university in Prague, the capital of Czech Republic, is in a similar situation. “We are ready to go for the strictest quarantine measure if required,” said Sau.
While the Czech Republic has allowed those holding residence permits back, most of the signatories in the online petition are first-time visa holders to Czech. According to Joshi, of the 200 stuck here, 70 have a valid visa but are unable to travel due to the ban, 60 have submitted their documents at the embassy (which is now closed), and 80-90 are yet to submit their documents.
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