“Hoping for a proper response from the Indian Embassy in Berlin or from Air India is like expecting rain in Rayalaseema.”
That was one of the sarcastic messages I read on the WhatsApp group made by several Indian expatriates in Germany who wanted to fly home during the COVID-19 pandemic.
On May 7, the union government launched the ‘Vande Bharat Mission’ to repatriate Indians trapped in various parts of the world. The mission begins with flights from the Gulf countries. The first flight from Germany departs on May 28 and the second on 29. Another flight is scheduled for the coming weeks.
Being an aspirant to go home, I also joined the WhatsApp group, my first foray into the public social media group. For days, I realized how anxious and panicked people were. We are ready to buy any hopes and promises that may not be realistic. I also understand how the lack of coordination between Air India and the Indian Embassy made the lives of Indians miserable during the COVID pandemic.
Disruption in the list
Passenger lists prepared by the embassy have many disturbances. Taste this. A husband and wife can find a place on the list, but their one-and-a-half-year-old child does not.
Not only that. The excitement of the chosen people lasted only briefly until they contacted the Air India office to buy tickets. “The flight is full,” was the answer from Air India officials.
The embassy officials apparently did not understand about the flight while Air India spread little information about the schedule and passengers.
Although the government calls it a repatriation mission, Indians in Germany fire exorbitant amounts – three times the usual – for tickets. The current one-way tariff is Rs 56,000. Remember, this is Rs 20,000 before the arrival of COVID. This is not affordable for families with four children or students on loan.
Air India has opened ticket reservations before the center decides on repatriation. This panicked buying tickets, but the operator was unable to operate the service because of India’s decision to stop international flights. But Air India has not paid money back to customers. It does not provide coupons for future bookings, complains of many members in the WhatsApp group. In contrast, Air India offers a 30-35% reduction for this new ticket money. That is, now, a one-way ticket from those previously ordered will cost between Rs 80,000 and 90,000.
It hurts and sometimes it is amusing to see people’s hopes and frustrations. This is a roller-coaster ride. A person becomes very upset after waiting and praying in large numbers and flooding his emotions towards the government in the WhatsApp group. Voila, out of nowhere in a short time pro-government people appeared and preached that no other country in the world evacuated people. Even though you know it is a fake piece of news, you are letting it go so that the main agenda of returning to India might be hurt. People can feel the fear of talking against the authorities even in the WhatApp group of course they are Orwellians.
Gradually his hopes diminished. When it was created, the group’s name was ‘Germany to India’. Now when the religion is eroded, its name has been changed to ‘Waiting-German-to India’. I want to know waiting for what will be the next change.
This is indeed a bleak period for all. We have to finish many things before leaving Germany. From closing a bank account to ending insurance; wrap up house contracts to submit and secure documents from universities etc. Being a little famous for strict rules and large fines for missed dates, life in Germany is complicated. As I write this, I have 48 hours to find another place to stay because I have to vacate the place at this time. If I find no alternative, I will sleep under the open sky: maybe enjoy a German summer on an empty stomach.
A member of the WhatsApp group shares his concerns about transparency in choosing people. The government must be moved to reveal the last name list and the reasons for its selection. Moreover, he watched desperately, as proud Indians, we are all aware of the choices given to certain groups and sections of society.
Not providing the right guidelines will only create chaos and frustrate the situation. A member jokingly told me: “If they don’t provide us with information, the only thing left for us to do is throw in the wrong information and give them a taste of their own medicine.” He has a reason. Anger has piled up in such a way that, if the problem is not addressed, the Indian Embassy in Berlin can see the crowd outside in the coming days.
(The writer is one of the editors of the Kannada literary portal https://ruthumana.com/. He is currently studying computational linguistics in Stuttgart, Germany. Display disclosed is private.)
to request modification Contact us at Here or [email protected]