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From left: S.V. Reddy, Hussain Nalwala and E.P. Johnson see off stranded Indian workers whose repatriation tickets were sponsored by Nalwala, at Sharjah International Airport last Friday. Image Credit: Supplied

Sharjah: An Indian expatriate in Sharjah paid around Dh42,000 for air tickets to repatriate 47 stranded Indian workers recently.

Hussain Ahmad Ali Nalwala, a businessman, had come to know that the workers had no money after being laid off earlier this year by various companies as a result of the global economic downturn in view of the coronavirus pandemic.

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The workers were among 285 blue-collar employees who were made redundant, whose plight Gulf News has been covering. They were initially sleeping rough at a construction site in Sharjah before social workers and Sharjah Police coordinated to provide them with a temporary shelter at a Sharjah Police Academy housing facility. They were then transferred to a workers’ accommodation in Ajman. Most of those workers have been repatriated.

Moved to help

“I was moved by the hard situation of the stranded workers who were longing to be back home with their families. I got their list from Indian Association Sharjah [IAS] and wanted to play a part in alleviating their hardship,” said Nalwala, 74.

Out of the latest batch, 15 workers left on an Air India Express repatriation flight from Sharjah to Hyderabad in India on August 14. On August 15, 32 of them flew out on another Air India Express repatriation flight from Dubai to Hyderabad.

Emotional scenes

“There were emotional scenes at the airport, some workers were in tears. They could only believe they were finally going home when they had the tickets in their hand,” said Nalwala, who has a chemicals factory in Sharjah.

Hussain Ahmad Ali Nalwala

Nalwala, who hails from Mumbai in India, added: “There are more stranded workers whose paperwork is getting sorted for repatriation. I will see if I can be of any help again.”

Remaining workers

Out of the 285 workers — almost all from India’s Telangana state — now only 36 remain, said S.V. Reddy, convener of the Non-Resident Indian Cell in Dubai for Telangana Pradesh Congress Committee.

Reddy and IAS president E. P. Johnson have been leading the efforts to repatriate the remaining workers as well. They have been provided with complimentary accommodation in Ajman, provided by Smooth construction company.

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“These three-dozen workers don’t have their passports with them. Their passports were with their employers, who were unreachable. In coordination with the Indian consulate, we have arranged out-passes for all but two workers so far. We need help to arrange all their air tickets so they can also go home,” Reddy said.

“I thank [Nalwala] for his assistance, he has a big heart. These days, because of the tough situation, hardly anyone wants to spend even Dh100. I also thank IAS and Sharjah government for their efforts in coming to the aid of these workers,” he added.