Telangana students stuck in Taiwan

Deccan Chronicle.  | Aditya Chunduru

Nation, Current Affairs

No Vande Bharat Mission flights allotted to bring us back, youths lament

People wear face masks to protect against the spread of the coronavirus in Taipei, Taiwan. (AP file photo)

Hyderabad: Hundreds of Indians continue to be stuck in Taiwan, including many Telugu students, who virtually have no way of getting home. They have tried to contact the India Taipei Association, the de facto Indian Embassy in Taiwan, but they haven’t received a satisfactory response so far.

M. Raghavendra Reddy, a BSc student and Hyderabad native, had arrived in Taiwan for a research internship at Academia Sinica, Taipei, on February 1. He was among eight Indians chosen after a competitive process. Reddy’s internship ended on April 30, but his kind-hearted professor decided to extend his stay at the university hostel for two months as the lockdown had kicked in.

Since then, Reddy and the other Indians have tried to contact the embassy to help them get back home. No flight from the Vande Bharat Mission has been allotted to Taiwan.

“In the beginning, they told us that fewer than 30 people wished to return to India. They told us we are not a priority for repatriation due to our small number,” said Reddy. The expatriates banded together on Facebook and realised that at least 150 people wished to go home. They approached the officials again. Anil Kumar, an Anantapur native and BTech final student, who was on a nine-month internship, said officials often contradicted themselves while speaking on the matter. “One official told me the Indian government is not showing interest in helping us. I spoke to his senior officer who told me the exact opposite — that it was the Taiwanese government that didn’t want us to leave. Which version should I believe,” he asked.

Many Telugu students are dependent on the largesse of their professors. Putta Ganesh, a Kadapa native and BTech final student, had planned to return in May, but his flight was cancelled. He depends on his parents to send him money for daily expenses.

“The cost of living in Taipei is quite high. Even if we keep our expenses to the minimum, it costs us at least Rs 25,000,” the youth said.

Expatriates have tried to send proposals to hire private chartered flights to the embassy, but to no avail. Taiwan, which has managed to contain Covid-19, is allowing flights only to countries it deems “safe”.

It is unlikely India will make it to this list. Until then, expatriates are hoping for the Vande Bharat Mission to help them.