Part two of ‘How much more can India take?‘ Photo taken by Sarah Purton in Pushkar, India.
Of the 1.4 billion people living in India at the moment, about 9,000 of them are Australian citizens trying to get home. No problem. You can come home by all means. But you have three options to consider carefully before making the trip back to your beloved almost Covid free Australia. The first one is you won’t have to pay tax, do housework or cook meals for at least five years. You won’t even have to pay rent. Not a bad deal at all. The other option is you can throw $66 000 into the government coffers. This option is not bad either but possibly only available to those wealthier citizens. If enough of the said 9000 citizens choose that option, the government could use it to support students. One fine example could be to lower the cost of Arts degrees. That’s not a bad option either for anyone with philanthropic impulses. Unlike the Australian government.
The third option is you can be greedy and go for both. But the reality is these options are only available if you’re prepared to face five years in jail or pay a $66,000 fine. Or both.
How can this happen?
The Australian government has made it illegal for their own citizens stranded in Covid ravaged India to come home. However, when the Prime Minister Scott Morrison was questioned on the news about the tough penalties, he said that this would never happen. As he said it with his reassuring smirk on his face, I’m sure most Australians felt relieved to know that he was only joking. And of course, it was a joke. How could anyone get back home from India when all flights were banned? Let me clarify that. They were banned to your average citizen. That happens to be all Aussie citizens stranded in India but with just one exception. The Professional Aussie Cricketer (PAC).
The PACs are in a class of their own – and so they should be
I think it’s true to say that Australia values sport above all else. We have witnessed that more than ever throughout this damn pandemic . So getting back to the Professional Australian Cricketer, they are a special breed Just last week a bunch of them arrived back home in Australia. They were in India for the India Premier League which was postponed due to the worsening Covid crisis in that country. Poor things were stranded in India for a few days. But fortunately the travel ban didn’t apply to them. They were able to fly back to Australia via the Maldives sans jail time, a hefty fine (small for them) or both.
Australia – land of sport and the fair go
Australia is also known as ‘the land of the fair go’. So naturally we all realise that It’s only fair that these cricket dudes should be prioritised. After all they are not your average citizen. They are sporting legends. They get notoriety not just by rubbing their balls on their pants, hitting a ball up and down a cricket pitch, running after it and catching it now and again. No sireee. Many of them are often caught doing criminal things. Like ball tampering for instance. Isn’t that considered a crime? But good on you lads for jumping in front of the Australian citizens who truly are stranded. Many have not seen their families for over a year – years in some cases. Most have no idea if and when they will be able to return home to their loved ones.
Australia – land of compassion???
On my morning train commute last week, on the topic of the India travel ban, I overheard a bunch of mask-less loud windbags saying things like ‘they weren’t forced to go there’ ‘serves them right’ and ‘they should stay there’. That sounded like racism to me. It certainly wasn’t fear or ignorance given they weren’t wearing masks. (Masks are mandatory on public transport. Non-maskers could face a $200 fine. Victorian Government).
Unfortunately the critics of Aussies stranded in India are fairly common. Maybe it’s not through fear or ignorance or even racism. Maybe they are just inhumane and heartless and therefore don’t understand the concepts of vulnerability and compassion. Most people returned to India for compassionate reasons, not for a little holiday or to play cricket. For example, a son went to spend time with his dying father. A little girl went to stay with her grandparents in India and now can’t return to her parents who live in Melbourne. Many others went to be with sick and dying parents.
How to get on a repatriation flight
For one thing, you need heaps of money. The flight is followed by two weeks of compulsory quarantine which cost passengers thousands. But I guess if you don’t have the money, you would get it somehow just to be home and safe. And secondly, you need a load of patience because it’s going to take forever to get 9 000 people home from India at this rate. Last weekend the first repatriation flight landed in Darwin where passengers will spend two weeks in quarantine. And finally, you need reliable test results. The aforementioned flight was only half full because 72 passengers tested positive for Covid or were close contacts of infected people. Unfortunately for some of those passengers, there may have been a bungle with their test results.
But the most concerning thing in all this chaos is that some Aussie citizens will no longer be needing flights home. They are the ones who have succumbed to Covid-19.
So there you have it. My take on the latest from India. In one word – tragic.