May 30, 2020

‘Stranded in India’ portal to help stuck foreign tourists

With no evacuation, portal may help stranded Kiwis

With the possibility of curfew being extended in India, suspension of commercial flights and remote possibility of evacuation of thousands of stranded foreigners, the Indian Government has stepped up its efforts to assist those in need.

While acknowledging that “thousands of international visitors are confined to their hotel rooms and cannot fly out due to the nationwide lockdown,” the Indian Ministry of Tourism has launched a portal, “Stranded in India” (www. strandedinindia.com) to assist and facilitate stranded foreign tourists.

“The portal aims to act as a support network for foreign tourists stuck in various parts of India and to disseminate information regarding the services that (they) can avail,” the government announcement said.

Within the first 10 days of its launch (up to 10th April), more than 1200 foreign tourists from various parts of the country have already registered on this portal.

For the hundreds of NZers also stuck in India, this portal would prove to be useful in the absence of any evacuation effort in sight by the NZ government.

After announcing the rescue of 16 NZers from the stricken cruise ship off the coast of Uruguay yesterday, the New Zealand Foreign Minister, Winston Peters again reiterated, “Our advice to New Zealanders overseas remains to shelter safely where you are, or return home by commercial means.

“Consular officials are navigating extremely complex circumstances every day, to find solutions that work, though Government chartered flights cannot be relied upon in a great many locations,” Peters said.

Portal may be of help to stranded Kiwis also

Meanwhile, the Indian Tourism Ministry explained that the concerns raised by stranded foreigners on the portal vary from extension of expired visas; help with curfew permits to travel to airports to take rescue flight;  information on rescue or commercial flights. Government was getting also requests for medicine or food supplies, and it was tackling these on an emergent basis.

In one instance, the Ministry successfully arranged medication and transportation for a stranded Australian.

“An Australian tourist with his family was stranded in Ahmedabad. The tourist has epilepsy and ran out of medication prescribed by Australian doctors due to the lockdown. The portal led to the tourist being reached through the office of the District Collector. He was provided with sufficient medication and was also offered food and local transportation. Now, they are comfortable and safe,” the communique says.

In another case quoted, an American lady, who was stranded in Supaul district of Bihar while her son was undergoing surgery at Delhi, through the portal, “she was facilitated and secured her a special transit-permit to travel to Delhi.

Many stranded foreigners are also reportedly seeking help with suitable accommodations as their available finances shrink with passage of time. One such tourist was an Australian Mir Rezaul Tonoy Tarique who was stranded in West Bengal.  With help of local officials, the Ministry of Tourism relocated him to a budget hotel at his request.

Tourists would need to log on to the portal, provide some basic contact information and narrate the nature of issues being faced by them if any.

The portal has all the necessary information and round-the-clock helpline numbers, email contacts, etc that could be of use to the stranded foreign tourists.