Tribune News Service
Gurdaspur, June 23
Dubai-based construction magnate Surinder Pal Singh Oberoi has decided to charter four flights from Dubai, two each to Chandigarh and Amritsar, to bring back hundreds of Punjabis stranded in various cities of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) ever since flying restrictions were imposed due to the Covid lockdown.
Oberoi, who shot to limelight in 2010, when he paid the blood money worth US Dollars 2.2 million to the relatives of Pakistani man allegedly killed by a group of 17 boys belonging to Punjab, said the staff of his charitable organisation ‘Sarbat-Da-Bhala’ was in touch with the officials of the Indian consulate and Embassy in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, respectively.
“Nearly 4.5 lakh Indians have been trapped in the UAE. A majority of these people belong to Punjab and work in Abu Dabhi, Dubai, Ajman and Sharjah. Their companies have abandoned them and they are now living in pathetic conditions. I receive scores of calls daily and have listened to horrendous tales of their survival, following which I decided to do something. In the first phase, two flights will land, one at Chandigarh and another at Amritsar. Each flight will carry 171 passengers. Once the first phase is over, two more flights will be chartered,” Oberoi said. Amritsar MP Gurjit Singh Aujla has been asked to work out the modalities with Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Puri.
Aujla confirmed the development. “I had elaborate discussions with the minister yesterday. Aviation officials are now working out the details,” he said.
Oberoi said each flight would cost Rs38.40 lakh. “This is different from the Rs2,470 tax to be levied per passenger. This comes to Rs4.22 lakh per flight. I will be paying tax, too, because it is obvious that passengers are not in a position to pay,” he said.
“My Dubai-based staff, in consultation with the consulate and embassy, has drawn up the lists of people willing to get repatriated. Priority will be accorded to pregnant women, individuals who have lost jobs due to the pandemic, senior citizens and people who came to the country for short visits or to hunt for jobs and have medical issues. Then, there are those who have lost someone in the family and need to return,” he said. Oberoi confirmed that his staff was in touch with several airlines.
“We may choose ‘Fly Dubai’, a UAE-based airline, because it already has local aviation clearances in place thus saving time, which was essential,” averred a staff member of the charitable trust.
Sources reveal the UAE was home to 30 lakh Indians, of which 4.5 lakh want to return now. “Air India is doing a commendable job in the ‘Vande Bharat’ mission, but it is not capable of doing everything itself. Hence, the need for chartered flights,” the businessman said.
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