Coronavirus: Biman to Bring Back Bangladeshis from India

  • The Bangladesh High Commission in India said in a statement on Tuesday that a special flight from Delhi to Dhaka would be launched by April 24.
  • The flight is expensive and may be financially out of reach for many Bangladesh nationals.
  • Many are voicing their concerns on the Commission's Facebook page and WhatsApp group.

Bangladesh is trying to get the necessary approval to operate a Biman Bangladesh Airlines flight on April 24 as part of the process to repatriate Bangladeshis stranded in Delhi and surrounding areas in India. On Monday, a private airline started flying special flights from Chennai to Dhaka, and 164 Bangladeshis returned to Dhaka from Chennai on a US-Bangla flight.

Biman Bangladesh Airlines, commonly known as Biman, is the national flag carrier of Bangladesh, having its main hub at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport in Dhaka with its flights also operating from its secondary hubs at Shah Amanat International Airport in Chittagong as well as Osmani International Airport in Sylhet.

The Bangladesh High Commission in India said in a statement on Tuesday that a special flight from Delhi to Dhaka would be launched by April 24. The aircraft will be operated by Biman Bangladesh Airlines. Biman’s website shows that the ticket price for that particular flight is more than Rs 35,000 ($455) in Indian currency.

In a Facebook post, the High Commission said that before boarding the special flight, passengers were required to collect the certificate from an Indian hospital and arrange for their own arrival at Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport. They also had to apply to the High Commission for permission.

Whether it is Chennai-Dhaka or Delhi-Dhaka, the fares of special flights are very high. For most, it is almost impossible to carry, say some Bangladeshi nationals stranded in India. They are also making their feelings known in the comments on the Facebook page of the Bangladesh High Commission in Delhi.

They say they have been stuck in lockdown for a month and have financial issues. Then, if they have to pay 35-40,000 rupees for one person, it will be impossible for them. Muhammad Shakhawat Hossain, a resident of Narayanganj, is stuck in Vellore, Tamil Nadu, with his mother for treatment. He said:

“The budget I came up with is over. There is no way to bring money from the country. Narayanganj is in a complete lockdown. Meanwhile, the Tamil Nadu government had directed to waive the rent of lodges. But the lodge owners opposed it and approached the government, then changed the previous order and ordered to pay half the rent. I am wondering where to raise money. Three times the Tamil Nadu government is giving food, but we are not accustomed to it, so we are not able to eat. I see many people waiting in the street for lunch when it is time for lunch.”

Many of the Bangladeshis who have been stranded while undergoing treatment in Vellore are now wondering if they can stay in India for a few more days without returning home with such a high rent. As the special flight is en route from Chennai to Dhaka, Bangladeshis stranded in other southern Indian states are reporting problems on the Delhi High Commission’s Facebook page.

Bangladesh and India are South Asian neighbors. Relations have been friendly, although sometimes there are border disputes. In December 1971, India intervened in the Bangladesh Liberation War, on behalf of East Pakistan, and helped secure its independence from Pakistan as the country of Bangladesh.

Not only in Vellore or Chennai, but also in Hyderabad, Mumbai, Gujarat, Punjab, and the capital Delhi, many Bangladeshis are stranded. Many of them also reported the problem on the Facebook page or on the WhatsApp group. Many problems are being solved through social media.

Those who have been stranded in and around Delhi have been asking for days how Bangladeshi nationals who have been stranded there can return. Sheikh Munir, who is stuck in Delhi, says it is difficult to arrange for such money. He has been locked up in a hotel in Paharganj for about a month after he went to Delhi for business.

“It’s very miserable here. The area has become a hotspot. So I can’t get out of the hotel room. The shops are almost empty. I’m eating one meal at a time and spending the next day fasting. There are also many people in the country in many hotels in this area. Everyone is in the same situation. I hear that the High Commission is delivering food to many people, but nothing has come to me. How do I spend a ticket to return to Bangladesh with so much money?”

However, many of those who are close to land-border ports are crossing the border and returning to Bangladesh. The Indian government has granted an exemption to Bangladeshi nationals who came to India with a visa to return to their home country. At the time of the lockdown in India, about 250,000 Bangladeshis were living in India, including thousands of students from various Indian colleges and universities.

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Benedict Kasigara

I have been working as a freelance editor/writer since 2006. My specialist subject is film and television having worked for over 10 years from 2005 during which time I was the editor of the BFI Film and Television.

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