(File photo by Ryan Lim/Khaleej Times)
With more destinations added to the Vande Bharat Mission, there is a great sense of relief among stranded Indians in the UAE, especially those from northern states.
Quite a number of blue-collar workers stranded at accommodations after losing their jobs are from the Indian states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu. All of them are now relieved, hoping that their names will soon figure on the priority list for repatriation.
The past few months have been tough, they said. For weeks, someone like Parimal Desai, who lost his job and wishes to return to Gujarat, would fervently check for updates on service to Ahmedabad.
When he realised there were more people like him, Desai formed a WhatsApp group, which soon had more than 125 stranded people from Gujarat.
He knocked on doors of missions and reached out to politicians in his state and New Delhi. Finally, his plea was heard, he said.
"I was so happy to see services to Ahmedabad from both Abu Dhabi and Dubai. This service will be a boon for people like me and the rest. I thank all local authorities, missions and the Indian government. We are all relieved," Desai said.
Ajay Singh, a blue-collar worker who has been waiting for a flight to Bihar, was delighted to learn about the service to Gaya from Dubai on June 1."Hopefully, our company will help with repatriation," Singh said.
An ailing Santokh Singh is eager to be on a flight to Punjab and join his family."I was discharged from a hospital on Saturday. I am wheelchair-bound but slowly recovering. I wish to leave on the next flight from Abu Dhabi to Amritsar on May 27. I am grateful that there is also a service to Chandigarh," the 68-year-old said. A service from Dubai to Chandigarh is scheduled on June 2.
Varun Kumar, now unemployed, is hopeful of returning home to Uttar Pradesh."We have one flight to Lucknow from Dubai. We appeal for more flights. We are happy that there are so many services to Kerala, let all brothers leave. But we, too, are stuck, we too are Indians," Kumar said.
Cheaper tickets expected
The next phase of the mission, which starts in the UAE from May 26, will fly out to places including Goa, Chandigarh, Jaipur, Kolkata and multiple places in Tamil Nadu - Chennai, Madurai, Trichy and Coimbatore. There are also 56 flights to Kerala.
A total of 81 flights operated by Air India and subsidiary Air Indian Express will repatriate around 14,000 Indians till June 8.
Tickets have ranged from Dh650 for Delhi to Dh725 for Kochi, but prices are expected to be competitive as private airlines are set to join the mission.So far, IndiGo has announced operations of 97 flights between Kerala and destinations like Saudi Arabia, Doha, Kuwait and Muscat.