India

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.

Key points:

  • Krish, who is with his grandparents in India, has unable to get a flight home due to COVID-19 lockdowns
  • His parents say he was not offered a place on a repatriation flight to Darwin, which lands today
  • One child who did get a seat is four-year-old Akrish Mishra, who has not seen his parents in Sydney in over a year

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.

‘We have to get our son back’

Krish’s parents have spent months trying to find a flight home for their son, including on an Air India flight, but they were not able to secure a ticket due to his age.

They also tried to buy an extra ticket for a staff member to watch over him, as they were told Air India had done this for other unaccompanied children. But they have not had any luck.

“It’s really devastating,” Mr Mundru said.

“We have nowhere else to go. We have to get our son back.”

DFAT was contacted for comment on how many Australians in India were registered with the High Commission and how many passengers would be able to secure a ticket for the latest tranche of government-backed flights.

Some families to be reunited with loved ones

One of those able to get a seat was four-year-old Akrish Mishra, who has not seen his parents in Sydney for more than a year.

A boy wit brown hair and brown eyes sits on a blue car as he smiles at the camera.

Akrish went to visit his grandparents last year and has been stuck in India since.(Supplied)

His mother, Ash Mishra, left her son, who has a speech delay, with his grandparents in Delhi in October last year so he could get speech therapy. He was supposed to come home in March.

Akrish’s grandparents were able to get a special visa to accompany him on the Qantas flight.

“This is just the best feeling,” Ms Mishra said.

His parents say the past few months have been so distressing, they got a camera installed at Akrish’s grandparents’ home so they could see him regularly.

“It was too, too hard for us to be without him,” Ms Mishra said.

“Sleepless nights, not eating any food, just remembering him.”

A woman with a red shirt on and black hair holds a little boy as they lean over to cut a cake

Akrish Mishra’s parents say they have had “sleepless nights” wondering when they will be able to see their boy again.(Supplied)

His father, Anu Mishra, said he was “very grateful” to the High Commission and Australian Government for organising the flights but wished it had been done sooner.

He now hopes other stranded Australians will get the support they need to get home.

“I wish everyone who is stuck over there can come home and have a happy story like us,” Mr Mishra said.

Lohit Soundarajan

Founder , Editor Tech Guy #Voxguy

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