Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Australian mercy flight bringing home travellers stranded in India due to coronavirus but 5yo boy among those left behind

When Krish Mundru celebrated his fifth birthday last week, there was one wish he wanted to come true more than any other: to see his mum again.

Krish is one of thousands of Australians stuck in India, unable to get home to his parents, Hari Mundru and Lakshmi Mandava, in Melbourne due to coronavirus lockdowns and flight restrictions.

Since February, he has been living with his grandparents in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, while his parents have tried to find a way to get him home.

"It's devastating," Ms Mandava said.

"It was his birthday last week and I asked him what he wanted for his birthday. He told me, 'I want a big surprise mum.' I said, 'What is the surprise?'

"He said, 'I want my mummy as a big surprise.'"

A man in a business shirt sits next to a woman in a floral blouse in a living room 

Hari Mundru and Lakshmi Mandava have been separated from their son Krish for months due to India's sudden coronavirus lockdown.(ABC News: Scott Jewell)

In recent months, the only official flights from India to Australia have been through an Air India repatriation program, and they have been flying at a fraction of capacity due to passenger caps in Australia.

The passenger caps have been so restrictive, recent attempts by Australians to organise private charter flights have failed.

Krish's parents had hoped he could get on an official Australian-backed repatriation flight scheduled to land in Darwin today, but they were not offered a chance to buy him a seat.

The Qantas flight to Darwin is one of eight flights the Australian Government has organised from India, England and South Africa, with priority seating given to "vulnerable" passengers.

About 1,315 people are expected to be brought back home, with passengers able to take out a government-loan to pay for the tickets.

Everyone will have to quarantine in Howard Springs, in the Northern Territory, before they can return home.

27/10/20 James Oaten/ABC.Net

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