An Auckland man stranded in India has offered his support to a Bay of Plenty couple confined to their Indian hotel room for a fortnight and pleading with the New Zealand government to urgently talk to India's Director-General of Civil Aviation.
Jai Bhasin reached out to Bay of Plenty Times after reading about Waihi Beach couple Don and Marian Stuart's desperate plight and offered his assistance to the couple.
"I am more than happy to use my local contacts to help Don and Marian in any way I can, please share my phone number with them," he said.
The Stuarts and Hamilton couple John and Jo Davidson have been confined to their hotel rooms in New Delhi since the couples' tour of India were cancelled last month due to the Covid-19 lockdown.
The Stuarts had been surviving on a meagre supply of bananas and what food they could order via room service. They were at breaking point, their family said.
The Stuarts were told by hotel staff that their hotel was likely to be closed in a few days' time.
Before the global lockdown Bhasin and his 80-year-old mother Suman, a permanent New Zealand resident, had flights booked to return home for good on April 26.
Bhasin, whose wife Urvashi and two children live in Auckland, moved back to India in 2016 to support his sick father Kanwal Kumar who died from kidney failure in January.
"After reading Winston Peters' appeal to Kiwis to urgently return home, we sold all our belongings in a hurry and reached Delhi a few hours before the lockdown," he said.
"Unfortunately, our new return flights for March 29 and April 5 were also cancelled and the airline has become incommunicado about their operations in India since."
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Bhasin said he and his mother were currently staying with his sister in Faridabad, 45km from Delhi Airport, and just want to get back home to New Zealand.
"I've been in touch with the New Zealand High Commission in India almost daily, but we're told to stay put, be safe and to inform the commission about any unsafe situation. We just feel so helpless, and want to come home," he said.
Bhasin said the Indian government was allowing cargo flights and it could also allow special flights to enter Indian airspace to evacuate stranded foreign nationals.
An article on the Times of India website confirmed Air India's chairman had signed a contract with at least four countries to allow evacuation flights from the country, he said.
Bhasin said special flights started on April 1 with German nationals flying to Frankfurt and followed by other charter flights for Canadian and Irish foreign nationals.
"This tells me that evacuation flights to New Zealand are possible, it just needs our government to urgently speak with India's Director-General of Civil Aviation to help make it happen," he said.
"Just like Don and Marian Stuart, we are willing to pay."
Don Stuart's brother Pat Stuart said the High Commission in India had been "very helpful", offering suggestions about where the couples could go if they were kicked out of their hotel.
"They also delivered fresh fruit to Don and Marian and the Davidsons, which perked them up no end," he said.
However, he was frustrated at their plight.
Stuart said the two couples made plans to move to the Lemon Tree Hotel in Aerocity closer to the New Delhi Airport but their battle to get home continued.
On April 2, Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters announced foreign governments could organise charter flights to help get the tens of thousands of foreign tourists stranded here back home, subject to strict health and safety requirements.
Peters told Radio New Zealand that the New Zealand government hoped to take advantage of those evacuation flights to help Kiwis stranded overseas.
"We are going to try to marry up as many of those flights as we possibly can with New Zealanders coming this way.
"Given that Air New Zealand intends to fly charter flights from New Zealand to Europe for European governments, we will explore the extent to which New Zealanders can return in the planes on the way back," he said.
Peters said, unfortunately, assisting Kiwis stranded in India and in some remote parts of the world, was not just a case of chartering a flight, as there were "complex" Covid-19 lockdown restrictions in other countries to overcome too.
"Because of the total lockdown in India, getting a plane from India to New Zealand in the current set of circumstances is just impossible," he said.
But Peters said the Government has had some successes working with other countries.
This included 27 New Zealanders brought out of Nepal on Thursday via an Australian government flight to Brisbane and then an Air New Zealand flight to Auckland, he said.
Peters said if the New Zealand Government saw further gaps or opportunities to try to assist other stranded Kiwis to return home it would do its level best to do so.