Ajman: “I want to live the rest of my life in Kerala. Let my death be there in my motherland.”
This is the plea of a semi-paralysed Indian man, 79, who claims to have landed in the UAE in a wooden catamaran 52 years ago, and is seeking repatriation during the coronavirus pandemic.
K. Raghavan, who once ran two tailoring shops in Dubai and a trading company in Ajman, had been unable to fly home due to the fines he incurred after his business went bust.
Now living in a cramped room in Dubai’s Jaffiliya area, Raghavan said he had lost everything that he had earned in life by the time he fell sick with an ulcer and was eventually left semi-paralysed.
His visa expired three years before and he could not renew it as he has a liability of more than Dh60,000 in fines, in cases related to non-payment of rent and defaulting license renewals filed by the Ajman Free Zone.
“I wouldn’t have had this liability if my relative, who was taking care of the Ajman business, had not ditched me without making the payments,” Raghavan told Gulf News in a feeble voice over the phone on Sunday.
He said he had owed another Dh140,000 to Dubai Hospital where he was treated. However, he was discharged following a request from the Indian Consulate in Dubai.
Raghavan said he had been struggling to survive as he has to spend money on medicines, apart from his accommodation, food and other regular expenses.
The elderly man is totally dependent on his wife Sarojini, 65, who was brought over on a visit visa by some well-wishers, after he was discharged from hospital.
Sarojini said her ailing husband’s condition has been deteriorating for the past few months. “He is always tired these days. He can’t eat solid food as he gets nauseated. He used to catch fever very frequently after the surgery. Nowadays he is coughing and vomiting phlegm. We are worried about the spread of COVID-19 now.”
The last time Raghavan visited home was in 2014. The couple’s elder daughter is no more and the other two children are unable to financially support them, Sarojini said.
“Those who had worked for him are in a good position now. Many people have cheated him and many owe him money. Nobody will give us our money back. I am also a patient and need to take medicines for cholesterol and blood pressure regularly.”
The couple, who had to sell their two-storey house and a 30-cent plot back home, is now pinning their hopes on the few social workers and community members who have been campaigning for their repatriation.
Salam Pappinisseri, Tala’t and Farsan Abdul Jabbar of YAB Advocates and Legal Consultancy visited the couple and submitted a plea to the Ajman Free Zone to waive his fines on Sunday.
Community members like Basheer Thikkodi, Ramesh Payyannur, Abdul Majeed Padoor, Mohammed Moideen and Sasikumar Payyannur have also been campaigning to support Raghavan to clear his dues and fly home.
“A few months ago, he had to be hospitalised again. We all helped him pay Dh7,000 in bills while the private hospital waived an equal amount on our request. They will need support even after reaching Kerala. We are all trying to support them,” said Padoor.