185 distressed Indians fly home for free, thanks to Dubai-businessman

So far, around 130,000 Indian citizens have left the UAE on charter and government-organised repatriation flights


UAE - Thirty-six-year-old Indian national Jisha Hrishikeshdas arrived in the UAE in February this year, along with her two kids aged nine and 12, with high hopes of finding a job to repay huge family debts. Jisha lost her husband to suicide in August last year. "He was running a business in Qatar and due to its failure, he took his life," she told Khaleej Times.

An accountant by profession, Jisha landed a job as a manager in a brand-new restaurant in Al Ain. Just when things were starting to look up for the Kerala-native, her dreams came crashing down as the Covid-19 pandemic struck.

The restaurant did not take off, and with mounting bills to pay, Jisha was on the verge of being homeless when she recently came across a free repatriation flight being offered.

She and her kids finally flew home to Kochi, Kerala, on Friday. "I am returning to Kerala to my aged mother. I have no plans. Come what may, I have to continue my kids' education," she said.

Jisha was among the 185 passengers who received a free flight ticket onboard the special charter flight from Dubai to Kochi organised as part of the CSR initiative by J&J Marketing LLC. The fully sponsored repatriation flight was made possible, in collaboration with Jiji Varghese, managing director of J&J Marketing LLC, Indian missions in the UAE, and local and Indian government bodies.

"These are distressed people. They are suffering immensely, and a team of about seven people vetted the list of passengers wishing to fly in collaboration with several community welfare groups, including Incas, World Malayalee Forum, Ackaf, and media organisations. They made this repatriation effort possible," said Varghese.

Consul General of India to Dubai Vipul flagged off the flight to India on Thursday, a day ahead of its take off. Other passengers who were able to get tickets onboard the free flight said they are deeply grateful for the opportunity; however, they are hoping to return to the UAE eventually when things improve.

Many also said that finding tickets to India, both onboard Vande Bharat Mission flights and charter flights, have been extremely challenging. So far, around 130,000 Indian citizens have left the UAE on charter and government-organised repatriation flights since the coronavirus outbreak forced the closure of countries' borders, according to the Indian missions in the UAE.

Rajesh Mohanan (39) said he came to the UAE looking for a job on a visit visa on March 10. "It was very difficult to find flights to return. I came here hoping to find a job, however, I got stuck due to the pandemic and could not afford to survive here without money any longer."

Similarly, Krishnakutty (57), a former bus driver, said he lost his job and has been living without salary for over six months. He said: "I searched a lot for another job, but it has been impossible to find one in this market currently."



Dhanusha Gokulan

Originally from India, Dhanusha Gokulan has been working as a journalist for 10 years. She has a keen interest in writing about issues that plague the common person, and will never turn down a human interest story. She completed her Bachelor in Arts in Journalism, Economics, and English Literature from Mangalore University in 2008. In her spare time, she dabbles with some singing/songwriting, loves travelling, and Audible is her favourite mobile application. Tweet at her @wordjunkie88

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