We are nothing: Aussie stranded in India

·2-min read

Was he supposed to let his father die without seeing him one last time?

That's Melbourne man Vishal Dhanda's question for the Australian government, which he says has abandoned him in coronavirus-ravaged India after giving him permission to travel there in the first place.

The Morrison government overnight on Friday announced that anyone travelling from India - including Australian citizens - would be banned from entering the country until at least May 15, when the decision will be reassessed.

It also cancelled six repatriation flights that were due to extract vulnerable Australians from the escalating crisis.

India's death toll has topped 200,000 and the country has been setting records each day with the tally of new cases. Hospitals are overwhelmed and oxygen supplies are low.

Anyone who attempted to defy the new rules would be hit with fines of up to $66,600 or five years in prison, or both, Health Minister Greg Hunt says.

Mr Dhanda is now among more than 9000 Australians in India registered as wanting to return, which includes 650 people registered as vulnerable.

The 38-year-old's father Satinder Pal became ill in September, but Mr Dhanda says he wasn't eligible to see him until he was on his death bed.

His previous applications for an exemption were denied.

"I was hoping he would get better and I didn't need to come," he told AAP.

"But in last few months, every single time I got a phone call from home I knew it was bad news.

And so the 28-year-old travelled to Yamuna Nagar, about 200km outside of Dehli, on April 11 after finally gaining an exemption.

His father died just three hours after he was able to visit.

But that was only the beginning of Mr Dhanda's ordeal, which has now cost him over $6,000 in flights and left his wife and son alone in Melbourne with no clue when he'll return.

"I didn't just do all of these things with closed eyes," he said.

"But I didn't come here for a holiday. I didn't come here by choice."

"My father was dying."

Mr Dhanda says he feels abandoned by his country, like many other Australians abroad who have been unable to return home.

"I applied for my exemption through all the right channels. Now you're telling me, why did you go?"

"I don't want to bring this disease back with me."

"I don't want to put anyone into risk, but at the same time I'm at risk as well."

Well over a year into the pandemic, Mr Dhanda says state and federal government should have strengthened quarantine facilities to cope with Australians needing to return.

The country has pulled out all stops to welcome tennis players and celebrities, so why not its own citizens, he says.

"This whole situation makes me feel that we are nothing," he said.