PATNA: Kayvann Shah has been camping outside the Indian Embassy in Tehran for more than two weeks, waiting for his government to evacuate him and thousands of others from coronavirus-hit Iran.
More than 6,000 Indians are currently stranded in Iran. Some of them joined Shah in demanding evacuation from the country, where the coronavirus death toll has passed 500.
“I have been in Iran for 20 days, and since March 2 I have been visiting the Indian Embassy in Tehran, requesting them to help me and my parents reach India, but no action has been taken so far. They just tell us to wait and (say they will) be in touch through e-mail,” Shah, a dried-fruit merchant from Mumbai, told Arab News on Friday.
Shah was on a business trip when the Indian government decided to suspend flights and restrict entry from coronavirus-affected countries.
“My parents are senior citizens and they need to be away from the country where coronavirus has struck badly, but the Indian government seems not to care about us,” Shah said, adding that even China has evacuated its citizens from Iran.
Vishnu and Dhiraj, who have been protesting with Shah in front of the embassy, are also disappointed in the lack of action from New Delhi.
“The Indian government is behaving as if we are not Indians,” Vishnu told Arab News Tehran.
On Thursday, Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar told parliament that the government was testing samples taken from Indian citizens in Iran by a team of Indian health officials last week, and would soon arrange a limited number of commercial flights to evacuate them.
“The first batch of 108 samples was received in India on March 7, and 58 Indian pilgrims who tested negative were repatriated,” the minister said.
However, according to the protesters in Tehran, the testing process is slow and it could take months for them to be repatriated.
“We are getting frustrated,” Shah said. “Why can’t New Delhi evacuate us first and quarantine us in India as the Chinese are doing? The longer we are in Iran, the higher the chance of us getting infected by the virus.”
According to government data, 81 cases of coronavirus have been recorded in India.
Many state governments have shut down schools, theaters and colleges, and banned mass gatherings. New Delhi has also postponed the Indian Premier League (IPL), one of the world’s most lucrative international cricket competitions.