Chandigarh repatriation flight leaves from Ras Al Khaimah
Chandigarh repatriation flight leaves from Ras Al Khaimah Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: The first of four repatriation flights chartered by Dubai-based Indian businessman SP Singh Oberoi left for Chandigarh from Ras Al Khaimah Airport at 4.30pm on Tuesday.

The SpiceJet flight SG 9302 carried 177 Indian passengers many of whom had been facing extreme hardships after being stranded in the UAE due to COVID-19 flight restrictions.

Oberoi said nearly two-thirds of the passengers travelled for free. “Those who could afford tickets paid, others got discounted rates but roughly 60 per cent didn’t have to pay even a single fil,” said Oberoi who conducted the exercise through the Sarbat Da Bhala Trust headquartered in his hometown.

Originally from Punjab, Oberoi said their next chartered flight will depart for Amritsar on July 13 followed by a flight to Chandigarh on July 19 and another one to Amristar on July 25. All fights will leave from Ras Al Khaimah.

More to come

“If need be I will arrange even more flights to Punjab. This is the least I could do for my people,” said the businessman who shot into famme when he saved several Indians from the gallows in the UAE after paying blood money amounting millions of dirhams.

Sarbat Da Bhala Trust spokesperson Gurjit Singh said they have sought a list of stranded people from Indian Missions in the UAE.

“We are focusing on youths from Punjab and Haryana but that doesn’t mean those from other states won’t get a seat,” he said.

Oberoi said their trust will also take care of people who can’t afford quarantine facilities.

Around 130,000 Indians have left the UAE on charter and government-organised repatriation flights since the launch of the Vande Bharat Mission on June 7. However chartered flights hit a rough patch when several of them were cancelled by India’s Civil Aviation Ministry.

Oberoi said he is lucky that his requests for chartered flights were approved “The flights arranged under the Vande Bharat Mission are not enough as there are still over 250,000 waiting to be repatriated. I urge my wealthy fellow countrymen in the UAE to loosen their purse strings and help stranded Indians reunite with their families,” he said.