Published: 17th May 2020
This disabled Warwick Uni grad is selling his wheelchair to afford flying back to India from UK
Ankit Agrawal had graduated from the University of Warwick in January and was set to fly back home on March 23
On May 16, Ankit Agrawal, a University of Warwick grad tweeted a photograph of a wheelchair. The caption read, "Anyone willing to buy my wheelchair? Selling it to raise money to buy tickets on an evacuation flight to India and to pay for an aisle wheelchair as airlines are not willing to provide one due to social distancing."
Ankit is disabled, suffers from Muscular Dystrophy and cannot walk. He tells us how his mobility is completely dependant on the wheelchair which he had bought for $1,000 a few years ago. "I do not know how I will manage things without a wheelchair. But right now, the situation is so bad, that it has forced me to take a measure this desperate," he says. "I was told that I could take a wheelchair only until the testing kiosk and that the airport will not provide one to transport me to the aircraft. This also shows the system's flaw when it comes to repatriating disabled individuals," he says. At the time when we spoke to Ankit, he was yet to find a buyer for his wheelchair.
After graduating with a master's degree from Warwick in January, Ankit was set to go to his home in Surat on March 23. However, he had to change his plans owing to the pandemic and the lockdown. "Before the lockdown, my mother had also come to Coventry, to help me pack my things and move back to India. But that was when the lockdown began and we both got stuck here," he says. Ankit tells us that his visa was about to expire on March 31. "However, the UK government had extended all such visas until May 31," he says.
After the government of India announced its much-awaited Vande Bharat mission to repatriate Indian citizens from other countries, Ankit and his mother immediately registered their names at the Indian High Commission. "Despite being a disabled individual, my name wasn't there on the High Commission's first list of passengers. However, my mother made it to the list. So, I had asked the authorities to reconsider and make arrangements for us to travel together," he says.
That was around the time when Ankit realised how expensive the tickets were. "A one-way ticket from London to Ahmedabad in phase I cost £541 (approximately Rs 50,000). In the second phase, it was increased to £596. It is a two-hour-long journey from Coventry to London and would cost around £200. I only have £300 with me now," he says. "That was when I had posted the tweet about the wheelchair. I hope to at least buy a ticket for my mother with that money. Since my stay has been extended, I have to pay the rent for this month too. I will somehow manage things here and get back to India once normal flights resume. That is what even Air India suggested," he says. Ankit once again points out that travel without a wheelchair will be almost impossible for him.
Stating the situation, Ankit had written letters to Accessible India. However, he is yet to hear back from them.