Tamil Nadu

They flew to Dammam with hopes, but land in Chennai with despair

Having lost jobs abroad, workers return to city dreading to think of their future

Forty-two-year old Babu Muthu left the city for Dammam, Saudi Arabia, pinning hopes on his job abroad to overcome crushing poverty. From the end of January till March, he worked in the construction industry, sending some money home and saving some for himself. But, like thousands of workers across the world, he too had lost his job due to the COVID-19 pandemic. After waiting for two months, he managed to return to Chennai.

“Thankfully, my company has paid me for the number of days I had worked but I couldn’t wait to return to the city. We had a room to stay in and got food from the company but there was no salary to send home for the last two months as I lost my job. Then some of the workers and I had to stage a protest before we could get our chance to get on a flight,” he says.

Like Muthu, many workers came down to the city from Dammam on a special flight a few days ago and are now on quarantine. While some had to struggle to get their company buy them a ticket, many said they were fortunate they got to live in decent accommodation and had food on time while abroad. But with jobs lost, problems looming large, they fear what lies ahead and how to run families.

Dinesh Murugan, a worker who went to Dammam in January, said they were all confined to their rooms to stay safe till the company made arrangements to send them home. “I was relieved at least my company took care of the food and staying expenses there. And here too, in the city, they have paid for our expenses to stay in a paid quarantine facility. But I dread to think what lies ahead of us. When am I going to find a new job?” he asked.

Dinesh Periya Govindhu, who flew to work there as a pipe fitter, said he was utterly relieved to be back home. “That moment when I set foot on the city is something I’d never forget. I know it is going to be a battle with poverty here but I’m hopeful to somehow make things work. I’d never go back again,” he adds.

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Printable version | Jul 5, 2020 10:49:17 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/they-flew-to-dammam-with-hopes-but-land-in-chennai-with-despair/article31780510.ece

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