India fights coronavirus: 200 blue-collared workers among 356 fly home, thanks to 'Vande Bharat Mission'
Four special flights have carried stranded Indians from UAE on Thursday and Friday
After a successful day one, the journey home for stranded Indian citizens continues. On Friday, 200 distressed blue-collared workers, many of who had lost jobs and were in dire straits, were able to fly home to Chennai on Saturday, May 8.
After facing several delays, two separate Air India Express flights repatriated over 360 distressed Indians. The flights were initially planned to depart at 2.45 pm and 7 pm, respectively.
However, the first flight IX 612 flew out at approximately 8.07 pm with 176 passengers. The second flight, IX 540 took home 177 passengers to Chennai at approximately 9 pm. There were 37 pregnant women and 42 medical cases, according to the Consulate General of India in Dubai. "The rest are elderly people, stranded tourists and families of those travelling," said the Consulate in a tweet.
For many blue-collared workers, this flight came as a saving grace as many were unemployed, struggling to make ends meet, and living in the fear of infection.
For example, Jeyaprakash Chinnappan, 34, was one of the first passengers to reach the airport on Saturday said he lost his job due to the Covid19 Coronavirus pandemic. A technician in the construction industry, Chinnappan said, "There is no job on the sites. I have been simply sitting in our accommodation. It is better to go back to India. Maybe, if I find a job, I will come back to the UAE."
Sabarinathan, a retail employee who works at a shop in Deira still awaits selection for travel. He said, "I hope there will be more flights to Chennai in the coming weeks. I work in a shop in Deira. I am worried, I will get sick and won't be able to work. My wife is also pregnant."
There were eight no-shows and four passengers who could not travel due to immigration issues. However, the Consulate said, "No seat on these special flights should go empty. We had eight no-shows today and four people stuck due to immigration issues. No shows were replaced with people who were waiting. The ones stuck at immigration are being helped by us."
Among passengers who had medical issues, a doctor who does not wish to be identified said, "I had breast cancer last year and I was under treatment in India.
Now recently I found out that it is relapsing and I need to continue my treatment in India."
India, on May 7, launched a massive repatriation operation for distressed citizens with two flights that carried 363 people from the UAE to Kochi and Kozhikode.