Tragedy stuck Vallamchira, a quaint little village near Manimala in the Kottayam district of Kerala on the night of November 28, 2021. A young 27-year-old woman, Nimmy, was found hanging at her husband’s house. A promising life tragically ended.
Nimmy was working as a nurse in a hospital in Karnataka before she got a nursing job in Sweden. Filled with optimism and joy, Nimmy got making arrangements for a new professional journey. Meanwhile, the new Covid variant—Omicron—broke out in Botswana (Africa) and other parts of the globe, sparking a wave of international travel bans and restrictions. Suddenly, Nimmy’s travel plans to Sweden came under a cloud of uncertainty.
The new job was vital for Nimmy and her family. Media reports indicate that her husband had lost his job, which meant Nimmy carried the financial hope of the family. Once the trip to Sweden became uncertain, the stress got the better of the young woman. She then did the unthinkable. She committed suicide.
With the specter of Omicron looming large on the horizon, many more Nimmys could be waiting to happen. We are confronted with a potential economic affliction of significant proportions due to Omicron. The dreams of many who have recently traveled from India to overseas territories for better lives and opportunities could come under sustained economic and emotional threat.
In this clear and present crisis, the government should be prepared to support potential expatriates who fear for their futures. There are several steps that the government could take. Setting up a helpline could provide immediate succor. A helpline that is staffed with well trained personnel who can answer queries unambiguously and precisely could help mitigate fear and misinformation. A dedicated website for Indians traveling abroad for work and studies in the Omicron context could be also provide great help. In an environment of uncertainty and fear, rumors and misinformation can fly thick and fast, multiplying the distress unnecessarily over what is as such a difficult situation. Providing real-time information and updates are key.
The government apart, civil society too has a responsibility. We need to find ways to route jobs to deserving candidates who have lost their jobs overseas, preferably in the country where they are residing. We need to come up with small and creative ways to support and help one another. The crisis is here. How we help each other deal with it, especially in foreign shores, is up to us.
(The author would like to acknowledge the very valuable inputs provided by J. Sudhakaran, a political and policy analyst and strategic communications specialist, in the ideation and drafting of this Article)