On May 13, 2020, the Prime Minister of India addressed the nation for the fifth time on the COVID-19 crisis. He announced an economic package which, along with decisions of RBI and Centre, was worth ₹20 lakh crore. He insisted that it would play an important role in “Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan”.
In his earlier speech on May 3, 2020, he had talked about the extension of the complete lockdown and the need to follow social distancing norm nationwide, with the possibility of some relaxation in area with no coronavirus hotspots. He listed the national problems which every Indian was facing. He also talked about the collective strength of our nation, our doctors, medical staffs, sanitation workers and our security force who are putting their lives at risk and fighting against corona every day.
The lockdown began on March 22 with a Janta Curfew after the cases started increasing across every state. Understanding the people’s fear, our Prime Minister urged the nation to join hands with the corona fighters and clap for them for at least for five minutes from their respective homes. On April 5, 2020, the Prime Minister again appealed to the citizens to stand in their doorway or balconies and for nine minutes, light a candle, diya, torch or their mobiles with an aim to fight the darkness spread by coronavirus with light.
Our nation hass been continuously expressing its gratitude to our doctors, medical staff and sanitation workers, police force and others who dedicated their life to fight against corona. However, on the other side, people have forgetten sacrifices of the seaman who are far away from their home and standing as the foundation of the world’s economy. Despite WHO recommendation for seafarers, shipping companies continue risking the lives of lakhs of seamen all over the world.
Ministry of External Affair with Directorate General of Shipping has come out with a solution for those seafarers who are on foreign ships. They can be repatriated through charted flights only. That means individual companies have to book charted flights to make repatriation of seafarers, which costs a lot for the companies. This also means that companies are not going to book such flights or most of companies will not go for this option as it’s a question of money. Therefore, in such circumstances, seafarers will get stuck between the decisions of the company and the government.
Seafarers are working day and night in this pandemic while others are allowed to work from home. We, seafarers, are
working for our own country, but we are kept away from our own nation. The government has left us stuck like this, and nobody is even taking up our issue in the parliament. Government has forgetten our sacrifices and has no concern for the seafarer who is keeping the supply chain running when the world is in lockdown. We, the seafarers, are working for everyone by putting our lives at risk for livelihood of our brothers and sisters all over the world.
If the government can send normal flights to evacuate other people all over the world, why not do this for seafarers as well? Why has the government made us fully dependent only on companies’ decisions?
There are some important points which are crucial for the safety, and illustrate the need to call back Indian seaman (The points below are based on telephonic conversation with Navigation Officers):
A case study of one navigating officer well described that his health is getting affecting day by day since he signed in the ship for his regular contract on September 2019 last year. He has completed nine months now, but the ship is still sailing everyday waiting for the hope of sign off. He revealed his story:
We are just balancing world’s economy by doing our duty in the Corona era. Initially, I was not getting any serious health consequences, but now I am experiencing pain in my back and knee joints and jaw pain. Since every place is in lockdown, I was unable to go to any country for a health consultation, but the pain was very serious. Finally, I managed to go to one clinic in Italy after the Captain’s permission. Italy was the most dangerous place as a corona hotpot, but anyhow, I got done with my checkups and am doing my everyday duty with medicine.
Even India is now at the fourth position in corona cases and I am worried day-by-day as to when we will able to reach India, when we will get permission to sign off. This pandemic situation is not just destroying my body, but I am mentally depressed by overwork and less sleep. Sudden change globally is affecting every individual, but we are the most tormented, far from home and putting our life on risk but carrying out our duties.
This COVID-19 situation is changing our life mentally, personally and globally, and this is going to affect not just us but the entire world as a whole. Why has our honorable Prime Minister forgotten to mention the seafarers’ sacrifice in his every speech while addressing the nation? Who is keeping the supply chain active in this pandemic situation? Our work is as important as other corona warriors in India. We are requesting our honorable Prime Minister to take our issue strongly. We all want to come back to India; our family is waiting to see us. Thanks!