SRINAGAR: Almost 860 Kashmiris stranded in Dubai are seeking permission from Delhi to fly in hired charters home to avoid serious inconvenience to some of the aged and females. Some of those awaited evacuation are patients or those having lost their jobs in recent days, reports from Dubai said.
The charters are proposed to reach Srinagar on June 9 and 10, if the carrier is permitted, the reports said. The carrier, that has already been flying the stranded to India, is seeking certain technical details for landing in Srinagar.
The government has already flown one flight from Dubai to Srinagar that brought 155 people including four infants home on May 23. The next flight is slated for June 11 and it is expected that it will also carry around 170 odd people. These flights are part of the elaborate Vande Bharat Mission aimed at flying the stranded home. The passengers are routinely paying for their tickets to avail the facility.
“Right now we have a list of 860 individuals who require quick evacuation,” one Kashmiri who is part of the diaspora efforts to get the people home said. “These are women, aged, patients and expecting mothers and mostly the individuals who have lost their jobs.”
AI1996..first ever flight to Srinagar from Dubai is ready to leave with 152 passengers on board ..we are happy that they will reunite with families on Eid. Happy to assist #MissionVandeBharat @MEAIndia @IndembAbuDhabi #UAEIndiadosti @AmbKapoor @MoCA_GoI @DDNewslive @PMOIndia pic.twitter.com/JWx5m0OkEl
— India in Dubai (@cgidubai) May 22, 2020
Dubai has eased the lockdown but there is no major activity and the business sis routine busy in managing the losses. Almost all sectors have reduced their employees to have smooth sailing.
A letter that a North America based Kashmiri sent to the Joint Secretary MEA, in charge of Middle Esat, captures the crisis that the Dubai based Kashmiris are living in.
“Many among the stranded have been laid off due to pandemic, some were visiting UAE on tourist visas when the lock-down was abruptly announced and their visa have since expired, most have exhausted their financial and emotional resources during this extended lockdown and are at the mercy of the others,” the communication sent by Irfan Malik on behalf of the stranded people in Dubai on June 8, reads.
“They don’t even have resources to recharge their phones and stay in touch with their families back home; some have sold the valuables on them to support their unplanned extended stay in UAE, a city which is very expensive to live in. Many have exhausted their medicine supply they brought along with them when they came for a short visit to UAE and are unable to refill their medications at local pharmacies on Indian prescription. The pharmacies are demanding that they get the prescription from the local doctors which they are unable to afford. A significant population have Emigration Check Required stamps on their passports and this highly vulnerable class has not received any form of assistance from the Indian Foreign Offices in UAE. Kashmiris on student visas also face the same crisis during lock-down in UAE.”
As the stranded are not getting an adequate number of flights under the Mission, they have pooled resources and decided to hire a couple of aircraft to fly home as early as possible. “It is pretty painful to live in Dubai without working,” one of the stranded persons said. “It costs almost 300 dirham’s for living, boarding and other things on a daily basis.” Dubai is reporting a day temperature of 43 degrees Celsius, these days.
They have managed a fair deal with a local low cost, air carrier – Fly Dubai – that has agreed to fly them home in charters. However, they are waiting for a clear signal and certain technical details from the host country to make the flights possible.
The stranded said they would have happily flown in the charter up to Delhi and then gone into the routine flight to Srinagar but the changeover will be a serious inconvenience to the aged and the women. They believe it will be expensive too especially because some of the individuals might be flying on the tickets paid by the Kashmiri diaspora because most of them have lost their jobs. A charter is costing slightly less than the routine.
The communication said that the authorities in Srinagar and Delhi were intimated about the plan on May 31 and so far only the response came from Jammu and Kashmir administration. “Since the only airport used by civilians in Kashmir has been classified as a military airport by GoI, the airline has also certified that the entire crew assigned to these three UAE based charter flights are also Indian Citizens,” Malik’s communication reads. “Please note that Fly Dubai has operated more than ten (10) flights during the COVID 19 pandemic to transport the stranded passengers to various cities all over India since the last week of May 2020 without any hassle.”
Since the airline is planning to fly three flights on June 9 and 10 to Srinagar with 189 passengers each, Malik’s communication is seeking permission urgently. “The flight is proposed to depart in less than 24 hrs from Dubai and the airline, Fly Dubai, is still awaiting information about Srinagar Airport data and charts to brief their crew and information necessary to operate these humanitarian flights in compliance with the guidelines of the Ministry of Civil Aviation in UAE,” the communication reads.
Already one person, a mother of three, died of Covid-19 in Dubai. “We had a family of three that contracted the infection and it included a minor but they have recovered along with four others,” the resident, who is privy of the developments said. “Right now, we have around seven people who are in quarantine after they contracted the infection. They are doing well but are unwell.”
The long wait for home has started impacting the mental health of many of the stranded. “We now get them connected to the psychiatrists in Kashmir for counselling,” one Kashmiri said. “We also have involved some NGOs who help us connect with the professionals so that we are able to keep the mental space cool in case of those facing harsh days for one or the other reason.”