Zama (name changed), an Afghan national doing her doctorate in the physics department at the University of Kerala, who is staying with her three children in a house at Kazhakkoottam in Thiruvananthapuram, recently turned positive for COVID-19. Her children are also symptomatic.
Managing it all alone, now she is anxiously waiting for a reply from the Indian Government after requesting approval of visa to her husband, also a postdoctoral student in the university.
He has been stuck in Afghanistan after the Taliban took over the regime. He is one among about 1,700 students, many of who have applied for e-visas, waiting for a response from the Indian Government to rejoin the educational institute and to meet their loved ones, who are staying here. However, there has been no response even as the colleges have reopened after the COVID-19 cases came down.
Ms. Zama said that her husband went back to Afghanisthan to collect data for the research work and to renew the visa, which was approved by the Indian embassy just a day before the Taliban entered Kabul.
But in the ensuing days, all visas were cancelled. He later applied for a special e-visa following the announcement by the Government of India. But till now there had been no response from the Government, she lamented.
She said it took over a month of search to find a house after she had to vacate the house where they were staying earlier. This could be a reason for her contracting the virus, she believed.
Now confined to the house, as advised by the doctor, she has no one to take care of the children, who too are showing symptoms of COVID-19.
“I cannot move to a hospital even though my health is deteriorating. Who will take care of my children, who are just two, seven and eight-years-old?” asks Ms.Zama, who was coughing all through the interview. They were now completely dependent on others for day-to-day needs, she added.
Ms. Zama said that though she had written to the Chief Minister about their situation and sought help to approve e-visa for her husband, there had been no response after the State Government forwarded the request to the Centre.
Speaking to The Hindu over the phone from Kabul, her husband Gul (name changed for security reasons) said he contacted the help desk in India several times, but there has been no proper response.
Mr. Gul, who is doing his post-doctoral study in the Department of Sociology, said though he could come through Iran, the delay in issuing the e-visa by the Indian Government was continuing to be a hurdle for him to join with his family and further pursue his research.
There were several other students waiting for e-visa approval, he said and added that the students studying in various educational institutions in India were now confined to their houses.
He said the students had no politics and they should be allowed to get an education. The Indian Government should change its policy for the sake of students, who were eager to return and complete their studies. Many were mid-way through their courses and the delay would only affect their future and career, he observed.
When contacted students, who were pursuing their research and other courses in Central University of Kerala, Kannur University, and other institutions in the State, echoed a similar view and demanded an immediate step by the State and Central Government to address their problems.