The nationwide lockdown in India has some far-reaching consequences amongst various members of the society. One of the affected group of people is of foreign tourists who had come to explore India, but now are stuck in various parts of the country, unable to return home amidst this pandemic. In response to cries for help from numerous tourists, the Government of India recently launched the Stranded in India Portal.
This portal launched by the Ministry of Tourism on March 31st is aimed to identify, assist, and facilitate stranded foreign tourists across the nation. The portal lists out services that can be availed by tourists amidst the lockdown until help arrives from their homeland. The portal also lists out COVID-19 helpline numbers that foreign tourists can contact, along with comprehensive information about the Ministry of External Affairs, and contact links to various related offices. In addition to this, details regarding state/region-based information about tourism infrastructure have also been provided in order to help the stranded get in contact with concerned authorities.
The Ministry has also identified nodal officers in every state and union territory, hence allowing the regional offices of the Ministry and the officers to work in coordination to provide necessary ground support that the tourists need.
The portal helps the tourists in communicating with their nation’s foreign offices in India and thus providing a safe passage for them to go back home. The Ministry of External Affairs, Home Affairs, and the foreign embassies work in tandem to ensure the safety of the people. When foreign countries send flights to evacuate their citizens, the portal helps in sending out such relevant information and ensures that the tourists from a particular state are able to move to the city from where the flights take off.
In the short span of its functioning, the portal already has a few success stories. An American woman who was stranded in Supaul district in Bihar after the COVID-19 lockdown was enforced, was able to attain a special transit-permit to travel to Delhi from the Ministry of Tourism after she launched an SOS through the portal to meet her son who was undergoing surgery. Another story comes from Ahmedabad, where an Australian tourist with his family started panicking as he was running out of prescribed epilepsy medicines, but help came through the portal as it connected them to the district collector, who arranged for their medication and local transport to stay safe. These remain only a few amongst hundreds, as registrations flood in through the portal reaching more than 1194 requests as of April 9th.
After the lockdown, there were reports of more than 4000 foreign tourists being stranded in India, facing a variety of problems. Survivability was also a concern as news of the virus coming from outside the country became popular, these foreigners faced a level of prejudice when hotels asked for COVID-19 test results for admission and demanded same from existing guests. This also spilled into either tourists having to pay double the normal amount to stay or to leave otherwise. Surviving a pandemic is tough, but it’s tougher to survive it in a foreign country away from home and family. This initiative by the Government only hopes to make it a bit easier for the foreign tourists stranded on our land. After all lending out the hand of hospitality is what the Indian culture is known for.