Combating coronavirus: 177 stranded Indians from Karnataka state to fly home from UAE on special flight
A special doctor will be accompanying the pregnant women on the flight.
A total of 177 stranded Indians from the South Indian state of Karnataka are all set to fly home on a special repatriation flight on Tuesday, May 12, to the coastal city of Mangalore, Khaleej Times has learnt.
After the collective efforts from a group of 20 Kannadiga (people from Karnataka) community leaders and businessmen, 177 distressed passengers, including 45 pregnant women, will be travelling to Mangalore, said the president of the Karnataka non-resident Indian (KNRI) Association Praveen Shetty. The flight will take off at 4.10 pm from Dubai International Airport T2. Consulate General of India in Dubai officials have also confirmed these reports.
A special doctor will be accompanying the pregnant women on the flight, said Shetty. "The list of travellers also includes people who have suffered job losses, people suffering medical issues, and visit visa holders," explained Shetty. "At least four to five tickets of really deserving passengers are being provided tickets as well," he added.
Kannadiga community leaders group together
Following the Covid-19 outbreak, the Kannadiga community leaders in the UAE formed a 20-member committee called the 'UAE Kannada Helpline' Club which provided stranded citizens facilities for food, medical assistance, legal assistance, and repatriation assistance. The group had an online portal - https://uaekannadahelpline.club/ - and an e-mail and several hotline numbers.
As part of these efforts, the permission for a special flight was finally granted to distressed Kannadigas, said, Shetty. The Consulate General of India has decided the final list of travellers. However, names of some distressed pregnant women were recommended by the community group, he explained.
The group connected with deputy chief minister of Karnataka Ashwath Narayan, CT Ravi, Karnataka state minister of tourism, Union Minister Sadanand Gowda - Minister of Chemicals and Fertilizers, Minister of Parliamentary Affairs Pralhad Joshi, Railways Minister of State Suresh Angadi and other officials to make the flight happen.
5,000 distressed Kannadigas apply online
Mohammad Naveed, Dubai-based businessman and president of Anivasi Kanandigaru Dubai said, "This is a secular, collective effort from all Kannadigas living in the UAE. There are Hindus, Muslims, Christians, and people from across communities who have come together to make this special flight happen, and provide on-going assistance to Kannadigas in need."
Naved said, "The formation of the team for this cause is a motivational story in itself. These are all business professionals who have invested their own time and money, giving at least 10 hours a day by taking calls, delivering food, counselling, giving strength, providing support for rent, etc. We don't take any photographs of our initiative." Till date,18,700 users visited the website and the group has attended at least 1,800 calls and delivered 1,200 food kits which can last for 10-15 days.
The group of businessmen were able to reach out to several senior Kannadiga Indian central and state government leaders, requesting them to expedite the flights home. According to Naveed, at least 5,000 distressed people applied on the web portal.
He said, "About 2,500 Kannadigas have requested to be repatriated home on an emergency basis. The remaining requests came for food, legal assistance, medical assistance, etc. Some people were struggling to purchase medicines and various such issues."
As part of the outreach, the community leaders reached out to all stranded Kannadigas via social media. "See, for the special flights, many of our people were registering to go to Kannur and Kozhikode. It is still several hours away from home for us," explained Shetty.
For the mandatory 14-day quarantine, facilities have also been made available for the NRIs. "There are three categories of paid facilities organised by the district. There are star hotel facilities priced at INR 2,500 per day, there are living facilities for INR 1500 and the third category for Rs700 per day," explained Shetty. Hostels, schools, and guest houses have been prepared for those who cannot afford to pay for quarantine and the district officers will manage it.
Travellers relieved at the opportunity to fly
Mohammed Habib, an expat who has been a UAE resident for 10-years, said, "My wife, Rihana, is nearly 18 weeks pregnant. She and my five-year-old son will be flying home to Mangalore. We noticed she has some complications in her pregnancy during the first trimester, and we want to go back to India to take a second opinion."
"The cut-off time for our travel is May 28, and we've been trying multiple routes to make it home. Finally, I reached out to the local Kannadiga community here in the UAE, and they have made this possible," said Habib.
Though the facility has finally been made available, Habib wished there were more clarifications regarding quarantine facilities from the state and central government. "We don't know how sanitised these hotels are going to be. In Karnataka's case, it has been left to the district to decide how the facilities are going to be. My wife and I are hoping for the best," said Habib.
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