People at a COVID-19 vaccination centre in Kochi. Indian businessman Ravi Pillai on Thursday announced a Rs150 million (Dh7.5 million) COVID-19 relief fund for the benefit of his compatriots from Kerala — including expatriate Keralites living in the UAE. Image Credit: PTI

Dubai: Indian businessman Ravi Pillai on Thursday announced a Rs150 million (Dh7.5 million) COVID-19 relief fund for the benefit of his compatriots from Kerala — including expatriate Keralites living in the UAE.

Addressing a virtual press conference from his Bahrain office, Pillai, chairman of Dubai-headquartered RP Group, said his company’s charity wing, RP Foundation, will offer monetary assistance to those facing severe financial crisis due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Of the total amount, Rs50 million (Dh2.5 million) will be handed over to Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. This amount will be disbursed to needy expatriates through Norka Roots — a public sector undertaking of Kerala government for expatriate welfare. The remaining Rs100 million (Dh5 million) will be given away to COVID-hit applicants from Kerala through RP Foundation, said Pillai, who is also a director of Norka Roots and chairman of the standing committee of Loka Kerala Sabha, a world assembly of Keralites.

Who will benefit?

The beneficiaries will include families facing a severe financial crisis due to COVID-19, those finding it difficult to cover medical expenses, families unable to meet the marriage expenses of their daughters and financially-strained widows.

The beneficiaries will receive the assistance in their bank accounts. The guidelines for application and eligibility criteria for expats will be shortly announced by Norka, said Pillai. “Many Malayalis, including those from the expatriate community, have fallen victim to the pandemic,” he pointed out. Usually, the death of the breadwinner pushes a family into penury. But in certain cases, children are orphaned. Many affected have approached me directly or through the foundation. Hence, I have taken a decision to set aside Rs150 million for offering financial help to such families,” Pillai stated.

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Ravi Pillai, chairman of Dubai-headquartered RP Group. Image Credit: Supplied

Other COVID-relief work

Since the beginning of the pandemic, he said, the foundation has been actively taking part in COVID-related relief works in various countries.

“We have been giving financial support, including fare, to hundreds of families stranded in different parts of the world. Apart from that, as a joint initiative with the government of Kerala, we have set up a COVID-19 treatment facility with 250 beds at Sankaramangalam School in the Chavara area of Kollam district,” said Pillai.

“I understand that this is a period of profound crisis when one is expected to take care of the needy and the underprivileged. Hence, to me, easing their pain is of utmost importance and I believe that is my foremost duty as a fellow human being.” Pillai said that his aim was to give away the entire relief amount before the Onam festival in August.

“Our aim is to reach out to the maximum number of people who find it difficult to meet their financial needs during this period of crisis. I am open to increasing the amount dedicated for this cause. I am also looking into another proposal for assisting children orphaned by COVID-19,” Pillai added.

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While expats will have to wait for the guidelines from Norka for eligibility and application methods, those in Kerala can apply with a certificate from a minister, a member of legislative assembly, a member of parliament, or the district collector at the following address: RP Foundation, P.B. No 23, Head Post Office, Kollam — 01, Kerala, India. Alternatively, they can email their application to