With hundreds of people still stranded in the Gulf countries unable to afford the flight tickets to India as part of the Vande Bharat repatriation efforts, a shopping complex association in Kerala’s Kochi has decided to pool in funds to manage expenses of a chartered flight to bring them home.
The Penta Menaka Owners Welfare Association, which runs the glitzy decades-old shopping complex in the heart of Kochi home to primarily cell phone retail and servicing shops, has been flooded with calls over the past week from expatriates who are stranded in Gulf countries unable to pay for the flight tickets home. Currently, the Vande Bharat repatriation mission of the Indian government requires those opting to travel to pay for the tickets. To do it’s bit and to encourage others, the owners association of the shopping complex collectively agreed to raise money to charter a flight so that the most vulnerable sections of the expatriates could be brought home without imposing any financial burdens on them. Follow India evacuation LIVE updates | Coronavirus India Live
Yasir Arafath, secretary of the association, told The Indian Express that he’s in touch with the Indian Consulate in Dubai as well as officials of the Kerala government to make a deal. Several persons, including those who have lost their jobs due to the pandemic have registered with the consulate in Dubai but are unable to come home. The association hopes to help such people, he said.
“Once the consulate makes a priority list of passengers and gives a letter to Air India, we will get a quote of the estimated cost of the flight. We are ready to hand over the funds to the Kerala government which can be routed to Air India,” said Arafath, adding that they have managed to pool in Rs 25 lakhs for the same.
“We are taking this initiative with the hope that it would inspire other organisations to pool in funds and arrange chartered flights to bring our people home,” he said.
Arafath said the funds they have pooled in are a result of savings that the association built up over the years, from rental tariffs and advertising revenues. There are over 260 shops in the complex, employing nearly 1,000 people.
“Many people who run shops in the complex are those who used to work in Gulf in the past and have now settled here. Naturally, they are emotionally connected to the expatriate community there and have been wanting to help. This is a tough financial situation for us but we have to do this to bring many of our people home,” he said.