CALGARY — On Monday, federal transport minister Omar Alghabra, announced an extension to the ban on flights arriving in Canada from India. The ban is set to end on Aug. 21, though it could be renewed again at that point.
It’s not what Suruchi Jaitley’s was hoping for. Her husband Devesh went to New Delhi in April to help family during a medical emergency. Shortly after, on April 21, the ability to return from India slammed shut and Divesh has been stranded there ever since.
“Since we did not have plan to stay so long, the expenses are going up. There is also a mental pressure without the family,” said Divesh while on a video call from New Delhi.
“I feel very helpless,” he said. “I’m so far away I cannot do anything. Even if I wish to help in some way I could not. So I feel very helpless right now.”
COVID-19 DECLINING IN INDIA
On Tuesday India reported 30,093 new cases of COVID-19. In contrast, the United States which has a third of India’s population reported over new 35,000 cases.
The Jaitleys wonder why Canada is reopening travel to a country with a rising COVID-19 count while remaining closed to India where the COVID-19 count is dropping quickly.
“It’s very, very stressful right now. I try to manage things, but you know, sometimes… I’m just one person… and how much you can stress yourself? Sometimes it comes to the point where you feel like, okay, it should just end here.” said Suruchi “The problem becomes that you don’t want to cry in front of your kids, because then they will be even more sad.”
The Jaitleys have three children. The youngest, five-year-old Alisha, does not understand why her father is not home.
“Every night she prays he will be home” says Suruchi “She is at the point where when she’s talking to her dad, she says ‘I can put a crack in the phone and pull papa out of here?’ It sounds easy, but when this thing happens, it’s so overwhelming sometimes that you don’t know how to manage. She’s always asking when is papa coming?’ And I don’t know. I seriously don’t know.”
Jaitley wonders why during the Calgary Stampede, events like Nashville North could admit thousands of guests using proof of vaccination and rapid testing, but the federal government cannot use the same procedure to get citizens home from abroad.
“Why is the Canadian government not letting planes coming from India when they’re having Stampede? My daughter asked me that question, and I don’t know the answer,” said Suruchi. “You are welcoming the visitors – and I get that – but do something about your citizens. Do something about the people who are on a PR status (permanent resident) who are stuck. You know, think about the kids who are away from their families.”
The Jaitleys are quick to point out that they are not asking the government for a “repatriation flight: or even financial aid to return to Canada, only that Divesh be allowed to take a plane home without having to circumvent the system by booking an expensive, circuitous route through a third country to get home.
At last count on May 21, there were 20,385 Canadians registered with the federal government as being in India.