Stuck in Dubai for 3 months, Briton with OCI card flies 'home' to India
Geetha Ramdas with her son Aditya, who is stranded in the UK.
Dubai - Born in the UK, 46-year-old single mother Kaippully Geetha Ramdas, has been living in India for 44 years
A single mother with a British passport and Overseas citizenship of India (OCI) card, who has been stranded in Dubai since March 31, flew home to Kerala on Tuesday on board a chartered flight. The flight organised by the Malayalee Arts and Sports Cultural Centre (MASCA) departed from Dubai to Kochi at 2.30pm.
Kaippully Geetha Ramdas, a clinical psychologist with the Corporative Hospital in Thrissur, was among the first few to experience a travel ban, imposed on Indian citizens and OCI cardholders since March 14. Though Geetha, 46, holds a British passport as she was born in London, she has not set foot in the UK for 44 years, she told Khaleej Times.
To add to her woes, Geetha's son, Aditya Sanith, an architecture student, is stranded in the UK. "His ticket to Kerala is booked on June 18. I don't know if he would face similar issues," she said.
The OCI card, among other benefits, allows multiple entries and multi-purpose life-long visa to an Indian-origin foreign national to visit India.
Lack of awareness on OCI card status causes long delay
"Travel to India has been far more complicated for OCI card-holders such as me than it is for Indian passport holders. I could not secure a seat on the Vande Bharat Mission flights," said Geetha. Since OCI card-holders are not in large numbers in the UAE, Geetha feels her pleas for repatriation have been neglected by Indian missions and government authorities.
"I moved to Thrissur, Kerala, when I was two-years-old. I have lived all my life in Kerala. I have an Aadhar card, I am a taxpayer, I have a PAN card, I hold property in India. I have nothing to go back to in the UK," she explained.
"I came here to Dubai on a three-week holiday. There is no awareness among travel companies and agents on what to do with OCI cardholders," said Geetha. As she suffers from a medical ailment - a horseshoe kidney with multiple stones - she wanted to return to India immediately for treatment.
The first set of travel restrictions against OCI cardholders was placed by India on March 14. "We did not even get a grace period of one to two days like how Indian citizens enjoyed till March 20. This was so sudden for us," she said.
MHA allows OCI cardholders to enter India on June 12
Geetha's prayers were answered after the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) announced on June 12 that it had decided to permit OCI cardholders into India. According to a circular issued by the MHA, OCI cardholders can now enter India for family emergencies and in case of married couples where one spouse is an OCI cardholder and the other is an Indian citizen.
Students are also allowed to enter when at least one parent is an Indian citizen or OCI cardholder. Khaleej Times has seen a copy of this circular, signed by Manoj Kumar Jha, the deputy secretary to the Government of India. In Geetha's case, she has no next of kin who are holders of the Indian passport.
No restriction on Indian-origin OCI cardholders: Mission
Neeraj Agarwal, consul, Press Information and Culture at the Consulate-General of India in Dubai, confirmed there are no travel restrictions for Indian-origin OCI cardholders. "At least three to four OCI cardholders have already departed to India from Dubai," he said.
Advocate Hashik, a senior legal consultant in Dubai who helped Geetha, said: "In the UAE, it is a rare case. In Britain, other parts of Europe and the US, you have more OCI cardholders. The law allows her to return. The Indian consulate and the embassy were supportive, but among travel agencies, there is very little awareness on what needs to be done with OCI cardholders. Such cases have been finding it hard to find a spot on a chartered flight."