Indian shuttlers stuck in Botswana wait for clarity

Bangalore Covid-19 International Sports Top Story

In an exclusive chat with the Indian Institute of Journalism and New Media, Priyansh Khushwani said that the Ministry of External Affairs hasn’t contacted them, yet.

It might take longer than usual for the three badminton players stuck in Botswana to return to India. The players may have to travel to another country that is not on India’s at-risk list in order to get here.

Badminton player Priyansh Khushwani said, “The counselor of the Indian Embassy in Botswana said that they will help us get the visa of any country that we can transit through, but we will have to keep looking for flights and ways that we can go through on our own.”. The Indian High Commission in Gaborone, Botswana, is helping them with food and accommodation.

 “The onus lies on the sponsors of the players. It is the sponsor’s duty to get in touch with other authorities to make sure the players have a hassle-free experience,” said an official from the Ministry of External Affairs control room, New Delhi.

 All the three shuttlers are self-sponsored, said Naren.S. Iyer’s grandfather, Balakrishnan. “There is no sponsorship either from Sports Authority of India (SAI) or Badminton Association of India. My grandson is self-sponsored,” said Balakrishnan.

Priyansh Khushwani also said that he doesn’t have any sponsors and that he is self-sponsored.

 An official from the Eastern Southern African Divison of the Ministry of External Affairs said, “We are sure that the Indian High Commission in Gabarone, Botswana, will make a decision that will be in the best interest of these players.” She also said that due to volatile conditions due to Covid-19 and the latest breakout of Omnicron, it might take longer than expected before the athletes finally reach India.

 Priyansh, who scored a bronze medal in Botswana Future Series meet, 2021, Lobaste, was planning to come home by Qatar Airways. “Qatar and Emirates are the easiest connection and the frequency of their flights is more as compared to other airlines,” said Khushwani. He mentioned that the airlines suddenly stopped their flights flying passengers from South-African countries and Botswana. “They terminated the flights without prior notice or giving any buffer period to the passengers,” he said.

Botswana is classified under the at-risk category by India’s Ministry of Health along with 11 other countries that include South Africa, Israel, and Hong Kong. B.1.1529 variant, also called Botswana variant was found in three people in Botswana. There were six cases that were found in Singapore and one case in Hong Kong. The scientists believe that the Botswana variant has a higher number of mutations and is comparatively more contagious.

 Many Indian states including Karnataka have asked the central government to put an immediate ban on flights flowing in from Botswana, South Africa, and Hong Kong.

The four shuttlers stuck in Botswana are Priyansh Khushwani, Revathi Devasthale, Naren.S.Iyer and Aman. While Priyansh, Revathi, and Naren have completed their tournament and are awaiting their return to India, Aman is planning to travel to Johannesburg for another tournament.