Chartered flight brings 180 from Dubai

Heading home: Citizens of Mumbai and Pune wait to board a chartered flight from Dubai airport.

Heading home: Citizens of Mumbai and Pune wait to board a chartered flight from Dubai airport.   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Businessman steps in to repatriate Mumbai, Pune residents after lack of Vande Bharat flights

The first of several chartered repatriation flights for Indians in the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.), organised by the Maharashtrian community, brought back 180 people to Mumbai on Saturday evening. A second flight is scheduled to arrive in Pune on Sunday.

The chartered flights are a result of the efforts of Rahul Tulpule, a 44-year-old Dubai-based businessman. Mr. Tulpule stepped in to coordinate after 13,000 people registered with the Indian diplomatic mission in the U.A.E. to fly back to Mumbai and Pune. Even after three phases of the government’s Vande Bharat Mission, there had been only one flight from Abu Dhabi to Mumbai.

Motivated by live video

Speaking to The Hindu over the phone from Dubai, Mr. Tulpule, the vice president of the Maharashtrian Business Forum, said he was moved by a video posted online that got him organise the flights. He liaised with the Indian Consulate and the Ministry of External Affairs in Delhi to make it possible for these Indians to return.

The live video was posted on Facebook by Sharjah-resident Dhanashree Patil, who highlighted how people’s problems were getting worse by the day in the absence of flights to Mumbai or Pune under the Vande Bharat mission. She also pointed out that there were multiple connections available to Kerala, whose community members were working in better coordination to ensure its people can return home.

“For several weeks now, I have been spending my time, from as early as 6 a.m. to as late as 3 a.m. counselling Maharashtrians who are stuck in the U.A.E. as there are no flights to Mumbai. Some of them were in a real bad shape and depressed and only wanted answers about returning to India,” Ms. Patil, who runs an event management agency, said.

Among those who are a priority for repatriation are pregnant women who have no insurance, individuals who have lost jobs due to the pandemic, senior citizens, and several people who came to the country for short visits or to hunt for jobs and have medical issues. There are also those who have lost someone in the family, and those who need to return.

The passengers seated in the aircraft.

The passengers seated in the aircraft.  

Community to the rescue

“In the last few months, I have come across many desperate Maharashtrian expatriates — pregnant women whose husbands had lost their jobs and they could not afford a child’s delivery here and old and sick people stranded on visit visas — who wanted to go home,” Mr. Tulpule said. While many of those being repatriated managed to fund their own tickets, there are many whose travel is being funded by individuals in the Indian community.

Accordingly, Mr. Tulpule sought quotations from various airlines so he could cut the best deal for the people.

“We chose Fly Dubai, a local airline because it already had several local aviation clearances in place, saving time, which was essential. It eventually took only 48 hours to get the paperwork cleared and the process going,” he said.

Among those on the Mumbai flight was a woman who went to Dubai in order to hunt for a job when the U.A.E. announced a lockdown a few days before India did. A single mother of two little twins left behind with her parents in Maharashtra, she had no where to go. “Eventually, the community came together, providing ration and rent to her and many others. Some even lived in balconies of apartment blocks,” Ms. Patil said.

With one flight gone and another to fly on Sunday, Mr. Tulpule is set to meet the Consul General of India in Dubai, Vipul, to arrange for a few more flights.

‘Organise more flights’

“There are reports of private carriers being allowed in the Vande Bharat Bharat Mission and that would help a lot. I would be happier to see community organisations take advantage of the process I managed to establish and organise more chartered flights,” Mr. Tulpule said.

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Printable version | Jul 4, 2020 12:07:51 PM |

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