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Dubai: Indian expats who lost their life’s possessions due to a fire at a warehouse in Dubai have filed a plea with the High Court of Kerala seeking legal assistance to recover their dues.

The petitioners claim they have lost hundreds of thousands of dirhams worth of belongings assigned to the cargo firm to ship them to Kerala from UAE as they were all heading to the subcontinent for good. Most of them had lost their jobs and had sent their families back home amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jose Abraham

Advocate Jose Abraham of the Kerala High Court told Gulf News: “The petition has been filed in the Kerala High Court because most of the victims are from Kerala. They are not in a position to conduct their case in UAE. The victims are unable to go to UAE and conduct a case there. Secondly, the Kerala High Court, in this matter, is seeking relief for the victims by issuing a notice to the Central Government to direct the Embassy of India in UAE to provide necessary legal assistance so they can receive their compensation.”

In response to a writ petition, a bench of the court, presided by Justice P.V. Asha, issued a notice, asking relevant authorities to consider the grievances of the petitioners and to provide free legal aid to initiate legal action for compensation.

According to the plea, a copy of which is with Gulf News, the petitioners claimed they lost their livelihood during the pandemic and paid thousands of dirhams to the cargo company to ship their belongings to Kerala. While the people returned home, their belongings — which they had accumulated through years — had still not reached them.

The petitioners, on knowing their goods and valuable possessions were ruined in the fire, sent representations to the Principal Secretary, NORKA (the organisation looking after the affairs of non-resident Keralites), who in turn forwarded the representation to the Ambassador, Embassy of India, Abu Dhabi in October last year.

George Joseph

George Joseph, who lost his job last March and was due to travel home in July, is staying back in Dubai until such time he hears any news of compensation. Joseph, who works as a travel agent in Dubai, said he paid Dh5,700 to ship his belongings to Kerala.

Ramadas Paruvayakod

Another victim is Ramadas Paruvayakod, 48, who works as technical engineer in Dubai. He said he sent his family back to India for good. Their belongings have all perished in the warehouse fire. “I had booked a jumbo box for a new fridge, washing machine and other things I was sending home. I paid thousands of dirhams for it. Plus the shipment cost too,” he added.

Roji Kurian, 43, who has a business in Dubai, said he too lost a music system, and all the furniture that he had bought over 15 years of his life in the country. “It is unfair. I hope we do get compensation soon. Tens of thousands of dirhams has been lost.”

Mangesh Prasad Chapholkar

Mangesh Prasad Chapholkar, a freelance IT Consultant in Dubai for the last 22 years, said, “I sent a TV cabinet, bed with storage, kitchen equipment, utensils, my son’s certificates and trophies, my daughter’s certificates and trophies. The saddest thing is that I lost my family photos, videos, lots of antiques and electronic items. Life has turned topsy-turvy. I hope there is light at the end of the tunnel.”

About the Writ Petition

Sreedharan Prasad

Sreedharan Prasad, Country Head, UAE Pravasi Legal Cell, vice-chairman SNDP SEVANAM and volunteer medical committee member Consulate General of India, said: “This issue will be brought to the notice of Indian Embassy officials for appropriate action to provide necessary legal aid for the victims. We are working hard to get the petitioners compensation.”