Dubai: Stranded Indians from Goa have sought direct repatriation flights to their state in India.
Hundreds of them from the country’s southwestern coast have registered with Indian missions in the UAE to return home under the ambitious Vande Bharat Mission. But they don’t want to land in any other state other than their own for health and safety reasons.
Goa is India’s first state to be declared a “green zone” with no active cases of coronavirus.
However, Dabolim Airport, the sole international airport in the state, does not figure on the list of 14 airports where 64 flights from 12 countries, including the UAE, will land in the first week of the repatriation programme.
Goans told Gulf News they don’t won’t to go elsewhere.
“Most destination airports are located in highly infected cities. Mumbai, for instance, falls under the “red zone” with over 13,500 cases and 500 deaths. We don’t want to fly there,” said Dubai-based Sayeed Imran, who is coordinating efforts to repatriate Goans.
“Aside from the risk of contracting the virus, we are also staring at the prospect of being quarantined hundreds of kilometres away from our homes. There are pregnant women, besides several elderly people with health issues on the list,” said Imran who has formed a WhatsApp chat group of UAE-based Goans wanting to repatriate. There are 150 people on the list already.
Among them is 44-year-old diabetic patient Agnelo Coelho who lost his job two months ago. “Being diabetic I am extremely vulnerable. I don’t want to land in a COVID-19 hotspot,” Coelha told Gulf News.
Four-month pregnant N.S. from Goa’s capital Panaji said she’s also desperate to go back. “If I don’t leave soon, I will reach the stage where I won’t be allowed on the plane because of my condition,” said the 23-year-old who has been served a notice by her company. “My husband still has a job but it’s not enough to pay for my delivery,” she reasoned.
A similar predicament faces five-month pregnant Z. Shaik. She was made redundant in April. “My visa expires on June 30. Once that happens, I will also lose my insurance cover,” said the 28 year old, also from Panaji.
Similarly, overseas educational consultant Sweta Narvekar and seafarer Kamat want to return to Goa. Both are struggling to manage their expenses with dwindling income.
Another Goan, Altaf Shaikh, who has been sent on six month unpaid leave said he’s written to Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant seeking help.
“Please help me…it is very difficult to manage the expenses here in Dubai,” he said in his message. Altaf said he’s also written to the civil aviation ministry to include Goa in the Vande Bharat Mission flight schedule.
Meanwhile, Narendra Sawaikar, commissioner for non-resident Indian affairs, Goa, has urged the Indian government to let Goa international airport be opened for flight movement.