NAT 200721 Dr. Dhananjay Datar with workers 1-1595318711010
Dr Dhananjay Datar with the workers before their repatriation Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: A total of 186 Indian workers in distress were able to fly home for free recently, thanks to a businessman who sponsored their tickets on two charter flights from the UAE.

Dr Dhananjay Datar, chairman and managing director of Al Adil Trading, told Gulf News that 98 workers were flown on an Emirates charter flight to Pune, while 88 were repatriated on a flydubai charter flight to Mumbai last week.

This is in addition to sponsoring tickets of more than 1,000 Indians in coordination with various bodies, said Dr Datar, who is also known as the ‘Masala King’ after the spices sold in his shops.

NAT 200721 WORKERS2-1595318714332
Some of the workers whose tickets were sponsored by Dr Datar Image Credit: Supplied

“I had sent home people from various Indian states, mostly Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Punjab, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Assam. This time, I wanted to particularly sponsor the repatriation of workers from my home state Maharashtra who had lost their jobs and those suffering from various ailments etc.”

Long wait for Maharashtrians

It was a long wait for flying home for those workers stranded in the UAE as very few repatriation flights were given permission to Maharashtra.

Speaking in Marathi in videos shot at the airports before their departure, the workers thanked Dr Datar for his support. “Most of us were struggling without money. The free ticket was a big boon for us,” said one of them.

A registration process was undertaken to accept the applications for free tickets from those who were either jobless or earned less than Dh2,000, said Dr Datar.

“It was a challenging task to choose the most deserving people. We verified their labour contracts to pick the neediest workers.”

Passports released

Since some of the workers did not have their passports with them, he said he had to liaise with their companies to secure their passports to facilitate their repatriation.

“I convinced their company to release their passports and told them I was sponsoring their tickets. The workers were very happy to come to my office to collect their passports and tickets.”

Apart from sponsoring their ticket fares, Dr Datar said he bore the expenses for their COVID-19 antibody tests and food kits.

“The support from the Indian Consulate in Dubai and numerous other welfare associations have helped me execute this mission in a seamless manner. I strongly believe that together we can overcome this difficult situation,” he said.