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No money, medicines: Tamils stuck in Malaysia send SOS to Chief Minister

Stranded in Malaysia for more than two months with cash and medicines running out, hundreds from Tamil Nadu who are stranded in Malaysia ever since international flights were cancelled, have pinned their hopes on the State and central governments to help them return home. Many have reached out to the authorities at all levels seeking help, but are yet to get a response.

No money, medicines: Tamils stuck in Malaysia send SOS to Chief Minister
One of the groups of people stranded in Kuala Lumpur


Ashok Kumar, a businessman from Villivakkam, had gone to Malaysia on March 13 for a nine-day trip to attend a funeral. "After two months, I am still here. Indian government announced Vande Bharat Mission to evacuate Indians stranded across the globe. But they are charging heavily, and even if we are ready to pay, there are no flight from here to Tamil Nadu in the near future," Ashok Kumar told this newspaper from Malaysia.

"Our requests are falling on deaf ears. The Indian mission in Kuala Lumpur is closed, while all other government offices are functioning here," said Parameswari Singaravelloo, a businesswoman who is trying to coordinate the repatriation of stranded Tamils with the Malaysian government.

Parameswari, who has her roots in Tamil Nadu, has been trying to help the Tamils stranded there, writing to the President, Prime Minister, Governor and Chief Minister, besides the Malaysian Prime Minister regarding this.

After Malaysia imposed Movement Control Order (MCO) – the official term for lockdown – from March 18 to control COVID 19 spread, nearly 4,000 Indian citizens are stuck there, she said. On May 5, the Malaysian government started allowing all approved foreigners to depart Malaysia.

Currently, there are about 300 people from Tamil Nadu in Malaysia on tourist visas, who went there for holiday, pilgrimage or to visit relatives. All of them are stuck in Kuala Lumpur and its surrounding areas ever since the MCO was imposed, noted Mikhael Iskhandaar, who runs an NGO in Kuala Lumpur.

They are also irked by the fare hike by Air India – from less than Rs 10,000 to around Rs 33,000 (RM 1,890) for a one-way ticket to cities like Bengaluru. "Even the people manage to survive somehow, I don't know how will they be able pay for the ticket which is three times higher than usual. Is Air India trying make up for its losses by overcharging Indians stranded abroad,” fumed Newton Durairaj, a retired school teacher from Puzhal, who is now in Kuala Lumpur.

"I spent only Rs 20,000 for two-way tickets and visa charges. Now, for the last two months, I am stuck here with no money, living like a beggar,” said Riaz Khan, another person from Tamil Nadu now stranded in Malaysia.

These people are now left to deal with the situation on their own because the High Commission of India in Kuala Lumpur has shut down its operations, with none available to even answer the phone. Among them are people suffering from illness and senior citizens who have no medicines left, the NGO noted in its letter to Indian authorities.

The travel documents of many have expired, leaving them worried about getting arrested by Malaysian authorities, said Ashok Kumar, adding that 290 people were arrested on Wednesday for travel document violations.

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