Indian students in Iran gaze skyward for flight home

Amid the outbreak of the deadly novel coronavirus, Indian students stranded in Iran have started to face the heat of mismanagement by the local authorities as they wait for relief and evacuation by the Indian authorities.

Narrating his plight, Sadaf Jalali, a final year student of medical sciences at the Isfahan University of Medical Sciences, told IANS: “No test have been done till now for students in Isfahan but tomorrow is the screening for Isfahan and Shiraz students in the Embassy of India itself. I am very worried and very distressed and continuously writing everyday to Indian Embassy in Tehran through emails.

“It is very hard for every student as the conditions are very challenging but I would mention that the authorities in the hospitals and the Ministry of Health has been very very helpful and are assisting every person in need of help.”

When asked if Jalali was in touch with his family in India, the students said that he was in regular touch with his father but he said that his father’s efforts seemed to have failed leaving him “hopeless”.

Seeking immediate help, he urged IANS: “If you can be helpful please let the MEA know that the COVID-19 is spreading very fast and everyone is in panic, we would be grateful if they can evacuate us at the earliest possible.”

A fourth year student at the Tehran University of Medical Sciences requesting anonymity, said: “When all of this started, the university postponed our exams. Starting from the same day, we began to try and get home but all the flights were being cancelled. We booked three flights on three different days but all of them got cancelled. So we started contacting the government.”

She further added that students stayed active on social media and their families in India began meeting all the officials they could find access to.

When asked if she was asked to undergo tests, the student said: “Yesterday, we were screened and our samples were taken. We don’t have any information yet as to when they’ll be taking us back but we hope it’ll be soon.”

While many still seem to be in fear and eyeing for hope from the Indian government to evacuate them, a special Iran Air flight IR-810 carrying 44 Indians evacuated from the coronavirus-affected country arrived in Delhi from Tehran on Friday afternoon.

Besides the passengers, there were 17 crew members and the aircraft was parked for a few hours at an isolated area of the Mumbai airport to avoid contact with other passengers or flights.

All passengers and crew underwent screening at the isolation bay, but it was not immediately known whether there was anyone showing COVID-19 symptoms.

Thereafter, they were directly transferred by bus to the Indian Navy’s facility in Ghatkopar, north-east Mumbai suburb, to undergo the mandatory 14-day quarantine period.