A group of Indian expats poses for a photograph before flying back home.
As thousands of Indians are still stranded in the UAE due to lack of enough flights operated under the “Vande Bharat Mission,” more and more community groups are coming forward to help their countrymen facing difficulties due to the impact of COVID-19 pandemic.
The groups have been operating chartered flights to repatriate them as soon as possible.
Latest addition to the self-motivated community groups is the Purwanchal Pravasi Milan (PPM) — a UAE based group of NRIs from Bihar and UP, two of the most populated states in India.
Ravi Shankar Chand, a resident of Bihar who has been associated with the group, said that a large number of blue-collar workers in the UAE hail from Bihar, UP and Rajasthan, but there were very few flights to these destinations under the “Vande Bharat Mission,” a government of India initiative to repatriate stranded Indians.
"The COVID-19 pandemic has paralysed the world economy. Thousands of skilled and unskilled labourers have lost job in the UAE as well. We took this opportunity to fulfill our community responsibility and provided food and shelter to jobless labourers who hailed from Bihar. Soon, we realised that this was not enough as the number of flights operated under the Government of India’s “Vande Bharat Mission” were not enough,” said Chand.
"More than 450,000 Indians had registered with the Indian missions in the UAE, but barely 500-600 NRIs were flying to India everyday under this programme. And majority of those flights were for south Indian states. This realisation motivated us to arrange chartered flights to help maximum number of the stranded Indians,” he added.
First chartered flight arranged by the group flew to Lucknow (UP) and another to Jaipur (Rajasthan) on June 20, while first flight to Bihar was operated on June 26.
So far the group has arranged about a dozen flights to various Indian cities including Gaya, Lucknow, Varanasi, Jaipur and Kolkata. Latest flight was operated on Saturday to Gaya in Bihar.
"Our first flight to Gaya carried 171 people from Bihar including many jobless migrant labourers, three pregnant women, two senior citizens. Proper arrangements were made for the seven day mandatory quarantine. All the passengers had undergone rapid COVID test at Dubai airport prior to boarding,” said Chand.
A long-cherished demand of the Kerala diaspora and the business community turned into a reality when an Air India non-stop flight from London landed on Friday night.
"However, international scheduled flights may be allowed on selected routes by the competent authority on case to case basis," the Directorate General of Civil Aviation circular read.
Briefing the media on the progress of Phase IV of the mission, known as "Vande Bharat," Srivastava said the additional flights will from GCC countries, Malaysia, Singapore, the UK, Europe, Kyrgyzstan, and Ukraine.
"It is not just a mission that brought back stranded and distressed citizens from around the world, but Vande Bharat has been a mission of hope and happiness, of letting people know that they will not be left behind even in the most testing times," Puri said.
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