Sharjah/Bhubaneswar: The coronavirus pandemic robbed them of their jobs and the hassled lot had no means to travel back home from the UAE, with many of them left without a penny in their pockets. Two flights did take off from Sharjah as part of the Vande Bharat mission on May 14 and May 20, but they were left counting days while waiting for their turn.
Now, they will finally get to celebrate Raja festival with their families back home. These 215 distressed Odias and one infant will board a special chartered flight of Air Arabia from Sharjah at 8 am on Sunday and land in the Odisha capital at 1.30 pm.
The chartered flight has been arranged to repatriate the stranded Odias in the UAE by the Odia Society in UAE, in addition to those being flown under Vande Bharat mission, in consultation with the Consul General of India to UAE, ministry of external affairs, Governments of India, the UAE and Air Arabia.
Moved by their plight, the Odia Society in UAE made a plea for a chartered flight to be arranged. “After a nod on the availability of a flight by Air Arabia, it took us almost 10 days to get the clearance to fly to Bhubaneswar from the authorities concerned. The flight was to take off at 1 pm on June 12, but we got the go-ahead only on June 11 afternoon, which made it practically impossible to get all the people to board it in time,” Dr Chandrasekhar Khuntia of the Odia Society in UAE told Odisha Bytes.
What makes this trip special is that the flight will be flown by Captain Madhusmita Pattnaik, a native of Bhubaneswar who currently stays in Dubai. “We had strongly recommended her name to the airline though she had no immediate flying schedule. She too expressed her keenness to fly her brothers and sisters back home,” he said.
About 90 per cent of those boarding this flight are distressed workers. “A few pregnant women who want to be home and the elderly visiting their children here will also fly with them,” he said.
Dr Kuntia said that they bought tickets worth Rs 25,000 each for 15 people who could not afford them.
“We are looking after the needs of Odias here in UAE, especially those in need like the blue-collar workers by supplying them grocery items and financial help ever since the lockdown was put in place,” he added.
The UAE is home to around 10,000 Odisha natives and the pandemic has only brought the Good Samaritans among them to the fore.