The Ministry of External Affairs has submitted before the Delhi High Court that it has set up a 24x7 helpline for Indian citizens who are stranded abroad, and are unable to come back to India due to the ongoing nationwide lockdown.
This information was provided to the Division Bench of Justice Sanjeev Sachdeva and Justice Navin Chawla in a plea seeking evacuation of an Indian student stranded in Edinburgh, Scotland.
The Petitioner had filed the present plea to seek the evacuation of his son from an University in Edinburgh. He submitted that due to the advisory issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs, his son is unable to come back to India.
He also submitted that his son should be provided with medical facilities and protective substances such as masks and sanitisers.
Mr Jagdeep Singh Bakshi, who was appearing for the Petitioner, informed the court that though an email had been received by the son of the Petitioner from an officer of the Consulate General but no physical help on the ground has reached him.
While informing the court about the 24x7 helpline, Mr Amit Mahajan, who was appearing for MEA, further submitted that the Government of India along with the Government of United Kingdom have actively disseminated, through website and social media platforms, necessary information to all citizens of India.
He also stated that an officer of the Consulate General of India, Edinburgh had personally contacted the son of the petitioner through telephone and he has been provided with the necessary information regarding helpline numbers, emergency telephone numbers, website, email and social media links of the High Commission of India at London and Consulate General of India, Edinburgh.
Moreover, the Petitioner's son has also been informed that the overseas visitors to Scotland, regardless of their residency status are exempt from NHS charges for both diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19 (Coronavirus). Links regarding the health care for overseas visitors and for refugee and asylum seekers were also shared.
The status report filed by MEA also pointed out that that two Indian stores are located within walking distance from where he is staying besides their being other supermarkets where, as per the information received, there is sufficient supply of food items and no shortage of food items has been reported so far.
Mr Mahajan further went on to submit that the Petitioner's son has been advised to register with the High Commission of India at London so that necessary updates and travel advisories could be shared with him. Emergency number of an officer of the Consulate General of Edinburgh has been shared with him and he has been advised to contact him in case of any emergency.
On the issue of had sanitisers and masks, Mr Mahajan informed the court that there is shortage of masks and sanitizers in Scotland and UK and even the Consulate has not been able to procure the same from the market. However, efforts are being made by the Consulate General of India to procure and provide the same as soon as possible.
Due to the nationwide lockdown, however, Petitioner's son cannot be brought back to India as of now, Mr Mahajan submitted.
MEA's status report also gave an assurance to the court that the Consulate General of India at Edinburgh is working to help the stranded Indians through student's associations, community groups and individuals by providing all possible assistance in the form of accommodation, food etc to all Indian citizens in Scotland. The Indian National Students Association (UK) and the High Commission of India are working closely to address the specific issues of Indian students across the UK during COVID19 crisis. 'Indian Government has taken pro active steps to ensure that all citizens of India particularly students who are residing abroad do not face any problem and all possible necessary steps are being taken', the status report stated.
In light of the submissions, the court noted that there's no need to pass any further directions in this petition.
However, the Petitioner is given liberty to speech approach this court again in future of the need arises.
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