Saturday, June 27, 2020

Is India shifting the onus of repatriating its nationals to UAE community groups?

Dubai: A section of the Indian expatriate community in the UAE has hit out at the Indian Government, saying it is shifting its responsibility of repatriating stranded Indians to community groups, as it has been approving more chartered flights than its own special flights under the Vande Bharat Mission (VBM).

The Indian government’s repatriation drive, dubbed to be the biggest ever, began on May 7 by using Air-India (AI) and Air India Express (AIE) flights. It later allowed chartered operations by private companies and community groups to speed up the repatriation of stranded Indians.

However, over the past few weeks, the government has been approving more chartered flights arranged by various community groups and companies than its own VBM flights, social workers and those chartering flights pointed out.

“The government is depending on us now,” said Dr Puthur Rahman, president of the Kerala Muslim Cultural Centre (KMCC) UAE, which has chartered the highest number of flights to repatriate stranded Keralites.

“We had approached the government to charter flights because we understood that there are many limitations and it will take a lot of time for repatriation just by using AI and AIE flights,” he told Gulf News.

“All expat community orgnisations have written to the government to increase the number of VBM flights. Until it happens, it becomes our responsibility to support our community members.”

According to Dr Rahman’s estimate, around 25 flights per day would be required from the UAE to India if all Indians, who have registered for repatriation, are to be flown home in about three months.

“Instead of that, we are getting only three or four flights per day under Vande Bharat. That is why KMCC and other community groups have to charter more flights,” said Dr Rahman.

More than 450,000 stranded Indians have registered with the Indian Consulate in Dubai and the Indian Embassy in Abu Dhabi to be repatriated in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the latest figures provided by the Indian Embassy in Abu Dhabi, 83,000 Indians had been repatriated through AI and chartered flights of other airlines till June 25.

Of these, 54,000 have been flown home on chartered flights (45,000 approved by the consulate and 9,000 approved by the embassy) and 29,000 on VBM flights.

“For the past three weeks, chartered flights have been carrying Indian passengers from UAE to India and more than 200 chartered flights have been facilitated by the embassy and the consulate,” the Indian Consulate said on Wednesday.
26/06/20 Sajila Saseendran/Gulf News
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