Combating coronavirus: Indian movie actor turns real-life hero for Indians stranded in Dubai
Dubai - His first major 'international operation' before June 28 flight out of Dubai was on June 27.
After repatriating thousands of stranded Indians from Russia and neighbouring Nepal recently, Indian film actor-turned-politician Deepak Adhikari has now come to the rescue of his countrymen here in Dubai.
A community-sponsored chartered flight - a first from Dubai to the Eastern Indian city of Kolkata - took off from Dubai International Airport's Terminal 2 late Sunday evening with 171 passengers on board. Those behind organising the special Indigo 6E9121 flight here said it wouldn't have been possible without the involvement of the Bengali superstar and West Bengal's Ghatal MP, who helped bridge gaps between the centre and state authorities in India for all due approvals on time.
"These are unprecedented times and as you can see, no government could have been enough prepared to handle this exigency. So, whatever little we can do to help in any capacity counts at this stage," Adhikari, better known by his screenname Dev, told Khaleej Times over the phone just few hours before the flight was to take off for Kolkata.
Adhikari says he and his small team have spent only attending to distress calls on social media from around the world since repatriating 1,000 workers from Nepal in May. "People are in serious need of help and time is running out. All I had to, and am still doing, is to help connect dots and build bridges - sometimes between communities abroad and local carriers, sometimes between the governments at the centre and at the state," added Adhikari, whose first major 'international operation' before Sunday's flight out of Dubai was on June 27 when around 70 Indians - most of them medical students from Bengal - boarded a flight from Russia under the Vande Bharat Mission for Kolkata.
An emotional flight back to Kolkata for many
Those who secured seats in special indigo 6E9121 repatriation flight to Kolkata on Sunday had people who lost jobs, senior citizens, pregnant women and even travellers looking to visit their terminally ill relatives back home including Gautam Banka.
Desperate to meet his cancer-stricken terminally ill mother, he had set out to book a ten-seater private jet for around $60,000 (AED 220,392) intially, hoping to split the cost with co-travellers. But he was still short of passengers when another idea stuck him.
"I thought why not charter a bigger plane and repatriate more people at much lower fares? So, I started reaching out to different airlines to get a quote from them and then this worked out. Soon, many people were on board," he told Khaleej Times while on his way to the airport with his wife and two children ahead of their flight on Sunday morning. "I hope to spend what could be the last couple of months with my mother, by her side."
"When I got to know of this chartered flight, my happiness knew no bounds. First, I will first see my mother and my siblings. Later, I will fly to Bangalore to my wife and two sons," said another passenger Nilanjan Bandyopadhyay.
Dubai resident Joy Debnath, who hails from India's north-eastern state of Tripura, said this brought respite for a lot of people wanting to fly back to the Eastern part of the country. "I will head back to my home state Tripura from West Bengal. However, when the situation improves, I hope I to return to the UAE with another job," said the father of one who was recently lost his job at a facility management company.
No flight without help from Dev, CGI
Dubai resident Sudip Saha, one of the key men involved in facilitating this repatriation mission along with Gautam Banka and several others, said that the flight wouldn't have been possible, had it not been for Deepak 'Dev' Adhikari's active participation. He also thanked Indian Consulate Officials. "Here, in the UAE we are extremely grateful to Vipul, the Indian Consul General in Dubai and his team," he said.
"Only three flights have reached Kolkata so far as part of Government of india's Vande Bharat Mission but this was the first flight that was chartered and crowd funded by a community and accelerated by a popular movie start-turned-real life hero," he added. Each ticket cost just over Dh1150.