Americans ‘stuck’ in India refuse to go back to America amid Coronavirus outbreak

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Americans ‘stuck’ in India refuse to go back
Image credit: AFP

The United States has already become the most affected country from Coronavirus with 5.6 lakh cases- almost one third of the total cases worldwide- and 22,000 deaths. The American government estimates that more than 1 lakh people would die from the pandemic before the country flattens the curve.

After the outbreak of Coronavirus, US citizens stranded overseas requested the government to airlift them. Most of the countries around the world including India airlifted their citizens from affected countries, especially China. Therefore, given the cost US government places on its citizens, it was obvious that Trump administration would make full efforts to evacuate these people.

On April 5, the US administration assured that they will evacuate 22,000 of the 37,000 American citizens who are willing to return home. Many of these 22,000 citizens were stranded in South Asia, especially in India.

“South Asia now has the most US citizens wishing to return. So far the US has brought home almost 1,000 Americans from South Asia and are working aggressively to assist thousands more who have expressed an interest in returning,” Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Consular Affairs Ian Brownlee said.

Around 7,000 American citizens from India registered for airlift and consulate. This included many Indian Americans who have US citizenship. But as the situation in the US worsened and it was visible the Modi government is managing situation much better compared to Trump administration, most of these people dropped the plan to go to US.

Of the 7,000 registered, only 1,300 returned to US while the rest decided to stay in India for safety concerns amid Coronavirus outbreak. “About 1,300 American citizens have been brought back as of last night, and we have five additional flights scheduled this week. It’s difficult to say with any certainty how many Americans intend or need assistance in repatriating to the US. We have had over 7,000 register with the US embassy and consulate,” Alice G Wells, the Acting Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, said during a teleconference on April 7.

The United States has brought thousands of American citizens from countries around the world including South Asian countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka. The administration arranged more than 100 flights to bring back at least 40,000 people from various countries.

The American citizens in India also wanted to go but when the US administration arranged flights for them, they refused to go. Because in those few days, the situation worsened in the United States while in India it remained stable.

“We had multiple thousands who, when we put – in India when we put the call out for expressions of interest in a flight, and yet over this weekend, our staff in India literally cold-called 800 people asking if they wanted to get on a flight today. We got 10 positive responses,” said Brownlee.

The refusal of Americans to go back to their own country validates that they feel safer in India. And this proves that no government in any big country of the world has been as pro-active as the Modi government. WHO itself praised the early lockdown, preparation, and containment measures taken by India, and suggested the other governments to learn from it.

The US administration, led by ‘businessman’ Trump, chose to save livelihoods rather than lives. After the outbreak of Coronavirus, there was a trade off for the leaders of various countries to make- save lives or livelihoods. In this trade-off, statesman like Modi chose to save life while Trump chose to save livelihoods. But the countries which chose to save livelihoods could not save either today, as after the outbreak they have to announce lockdown. The Modi government made a wise decision and this is the reason that situation is under control in India despite its weak health infrastructure.