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Clockwise from top left: M.A. Yusuffali, Hashik T.K, Dinil Kumar Madathil and Sreedharan Prasad. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Indian expats in the UAE have started taking legal steps and filing petitions, demanding the Indian government to include ex gratia aid for families of expats dying due to COVID-19.

Various Indian community groups here had already urged the Indian government to provide financial assistance to the families of expat victims of COVID-19.

Last week, India’s Supreme Court had directed the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) to recommend guidelines within six weeks for ex gratia to family members of those who lost their lives due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Indian expats have demanded that the government should bring expat victims also under the ambit of the guidelines to be set for disbursing monetary assistance.

Dubai-based Indian advocate and legal consultant Hashik T.K, who had filed a petition regarding the same last year, said he was still pursuing the case with renewed vigour after the recent directive of the Supreme Court. “I had filed the petition through advocate Deepak Prakash seeking a uniform policy for compensation to families of Indian COVID-19 victims. Since that plea was not entertained last year, I have joined as a petitioner to the latest PIL (Public Interest Litigation) in the Supreme Court,” Hashik told Gulf News.

He said the petition sought to invoke the articles of the Indian Constitution that mandates equality for all, irrespective of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth etc. “Indians working abroad, especially those who do not have another citizenship in the Gulf countries, should also be brought under this as there should not be any discrimination based on their place of work. Many Indians have died due to COVID-19 in the GCC, including the UAE. Most of them were the sole breadwinners of their families and they deserve ex gratia assistance from the government,” he added.

Expat groups to submit memoranda

Pravasi Legal Cell, a non-governmental organisation championing the cause of Non Resident Indians, is set to present a memorandum to the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “Currently, the Supreme Court has not made any mention about including the expats while forming the guidelines for the COVID-19 ex gratia. Hence, we are urging the PM through Supreme Court advocate Jose Abraham, who is also the global chairman of the Pravasi Legal Cell, to ensure that expats are covered in the guidelines. We are ready to move the court if it doesn’t happen,” said Sreedharan Prasad, country-head of Pravasi Legal Cell, UAE.

Sharjah Malayali Koottayma, a community group of expats from Kerala, said it would also be submitting a memorandum to top ministers of the central and state governments. “There are many expats’ families suffering a lot after the death of their loved ones. They also have the liability of paying the loans taken by those expats. They deserve support from the government. We will try to get maximum support for the memorandum with digital signatures of expats through social media,” said president Dinil Kumar Madathil.

Officials of another expat organisation, Incas UAE, also urged the government to consider the plight of the families of thousands of Indians who have died abroad due to COVID-19 while giving relief to such families of resident Indian citizens.

Norka to take up the cause

Meanwhile, Lulu group chairman M.A. Yusuffali, who is also a UAE-based director of Norka Roots, a public sector undertaking for the welfare of expats from Kerala, said Norka would take up the issue through the Chief Minister of Kerala Pinarayi Vijayan.

Seeking the list of expat COVID-19 victims, he said he would send it to the Chief Minister. “The court has asked the [central government] to formulate the criteria for the ex gratia in this case. Once the guidelines are made we will see if there are any concerns related to the expats. We will definitely take up such concerns, if any, through the Chief Minister,” said Yusuffali.