Even as coronavirus continues to spread its tentacles, claiming almost 1,500 lives in China (as of Thursday), as many as 55,000 non-resident Indians and people of Indian origin living in different parts of the country have nowhere to go with the Indian government denying them entry through air, water or road.
Although India evacuated almost 640 stranded Indians from Wuhan, the epicentre of the virus outbreak, 80 to 100 Indians are still stuck in the city and nearby areas, Business Standard reported.
India on February 2 temporarily suspended e-visa facility for Chinese travellers and foreigners in China and a day later cancelled existing visa for Chinese and foreigners who had visited the country in the last two weeks.
While Indian citizens were allowed visa, no rules were specified for NRIs or Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) cardholders.
According to the Indian Embassy in Beijing, 50,000 Indian citizens were working in mainland China as of early 2019.
The report says that lack of clarity on guidelines for OCI cardholders is also preventing their entry to any other country, even though the Indian notification on coronavirus only mentions invalidating e-visas to India.
The report quoted the instance of a family of four – an Indian man, his Chinese wife and their two children – which was stranded at an airport in Ethiopia last week, on their way back from South Africa after a vacation. While they were initially headed to China, they decided to travel to India instead, fearing the coronavirus outbreak. While they were initially given a go-ahead by the immigration department, they were later deplaned because officials said all their e-visas to India have been cancelled. Several calls to the Indian Home Ministry was futile and the family is still stranded at the Ethiopian airport, the report said.
A lack of clarity on visa advisory has also inconvenienced several Chinese citizens living elsewhere to travel to India.