Covid-19: Plight of stranded Indians in Gulf countries

Faiha Keeran

Day by day the number of expats longing to fly from gulf countries to India, their homeland is increasing. After this month, a majority of these people would reach the limits of their resources as most of them lost their jobs while some are uncertain about their job stability. Even the ones who lost their lives due to many diseases are not in a better condition than the living. They are waiting to fly, still lying in the frigidness of the mortuary, unaware of the fact that they are being denied the right to rest in their homeland for one last time.

The Indian government is smirking vengefully at people even when the living and the dead are burning in this dread. Everyone repeatedly says that this is a state of emergency, and still, the central government is turning its face away from taking a stance to bring its citizens back or even to provide them with necessary services and this ignorance is reflected in each of their requests.

Though the media and some adversaries spreading rumors about expatriates, these are not the people infected with Covid-19 and it is important for us to know who they are. These are the people suffering from heart diseases, kidney diseases, and diseases related to BP variations. Most of them rely on medicines from India which they have already run out of. They do not have access to medicines here without proper prescription from doctors as they have been depending on the doctors and medicines of our country for a long time. Many of them are in critical condition which is again worsened by the thought of Covid-19 infection. There have been many deaths until now due to a lack of treatment, medicines, and mental stress.

Moreover, there are many Indian senior citizens who have come to meet their beloved ones in visiting Visa and now they are trapped here with no means to return. The pregnant women have no access to proper and timely medical care due to the Covid-19 treatment in the hospitals, insecure environment as well as strict disease control measures. Along with all these people are those who have lost their jobs,  having no access to food, people who cannot afford to pay the rent, those in labor camps, those with aging-associated diseases, and people who are left with nothing but hope to reach their country. These are the people who need to be brought back. The increasing number of patients and the death toll is adding to their fear-stricken lives.

Joel Jose from Thrissur is one such victim who lost his life to the ignorance of central government towards these suffering patients. Joel was taking treatment for cancer for the last three years. He was to return in April for further treatment procedures. Meanwhile, a lockdown came in place across India along with international flight restrictions. Due to mental stress along with cancer, Joel soon succumbed to bed. Even though his friends and colleagues tried to send him back, they couldn’t succeed leading to the decision of further treatment from Muskat. Unfortunately, he lost the battle to cancer.

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Covid-19 treatment in GCC

Due to the numerous isolation camps, the initial panic-stricken confusion have subsided. The Gulf governments, especially that of UAE, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia, are efficiently and meticulously handling the health crisis. The isolation facilities provided by the governments are exceptional. The roads in UAE at specific intervals. The Kerala based NGOs, especially KMCC are doing a remarkable job and their work has even come under the radars of the government. They are working hand in hand with the authorities day in and day out while the diplomatic authorities are still half asleep.

The general belief that the Kerala government and its opposition are doing nothing to pressurize the center to bring them back is getting strengthened. They also state that those in power are holding press conferences to make a fool out of these people. On the other hand, the central government doesn’t see them as a potential vote bank and thus remains with a vengeful smile. The deceived are the same people who welcomed these leaders with red carpets including those of BJP, Communist Party, Congress Party, and Muslim league.

Later, they return and we remain

Special planes from the Gulf to the Philippines, Pakistan, Lebanon, Egypt, and many other countries have started their services. These countries have shown strength and stood up for their citizens. Those who identified themselves with so much pride as Indians got shamefaced even in front of Pakistan citizens. When they are arranging special flights, our courts are busy giving verdicts to restrict Indians from returning to the country!

Some of the European countries even smuggled their citizens through chartered flights. Need I say more, even from India, the citizens of different countries were flown to their homeland in their own planes. Every country is providing some concession to the citizens trapped in a foreign land, one of which includes flight facilities for the people.

Kuwait pardoned the illegal immigrants and promised to send them out free of cost, and still, Indians couldn’t access this facility due to flight restrictions. They have completely warded off the fine for illegally staying in the country and have permitted free passage from April 1st to 30th. According to the government, those who stay illegally after the allotted time would have to face the consequences which follow.

Bahrain has also adopted similar measures by which people could either work or leave the country without fine. Due to the Indian government’s reluctance to considering special flights, Indians cannot avail of this facility. The planes are ready to fly from Gulf countries if only India opens its arms to receive them.  Moreover, the statement regarding Air India’s international flight services to begin from June 1st, have demystified the center’s take on issues of expatriates.

Within a week, summer would touch upon the Gulf region which would yet again add to these misfortunes and sufferings. Now, there is only a need to bring in one lakh people and that could be done in two weeks’ time.

The relationship with Gulf countries post-Covid-19

India has not yet responded to the warnings let out by Kuwait and UAE regarding the revaluation of its relationship with countries that do not facilitate the safe journey of its citizens. This cold approach would definitely have its consequences in the post-Covid-19 contracts affecting lakhs of Indians working in these countries.

Recently, the Al-Rai newspaper reported that Kuwait is preparing to strongly oppose those countries which don’t cooperate during the time of crisis, as stated by their ministry of external affairs. Their future relationships would be based on those countries which stood with Kuwait and those which did not heed the requests to take back their own citizens. This decision was made public by Kuwait in the recent video conference with ministers of commerce from the GCC countries. Other countries have also conveyed their support for the same.

Post-Covid, if any of these gulf countries decide to extend the flight restriction from the countries that did not cooperate or bring restrictions in the renewal of Visa, it is going to adversely affect the people who have already returned to India.

India that forgets the deceased

It is doubtful whether these lifeless souls, in the mortuaries of different gulf countries, would ever forgive our PM. A scenario where proper funerals are not possible, a situation where their last wish for salvation is denied, through the center’s cruel negligence towards their desire to rest in their motherland.

There are excruciating experiences of death during the times of Corona, to witness a father’s or husband’s deceased body being sent in a cargo plane, Losing the life of a better-half when stuck in a different country. When there are no alternatives left, the dead bodies are being buried in Gulf countries, while the loved ones are left to lament without even the final glimpses of these people.

The statistics state that at least twenty Indians die in Gulf countries per day among which ten are from Kerala. Generally, these bodies were taken on daily flights. However, due to Corona terror, India’s restrictions, and the cancellation of UAE flight services, this system has stopped. Even though other countries are taking measures to take their citizens and the deceased back, the India government is doing nothing regarding this matter.

The funeral of Rathi Balan (65) Madhavi Nivas, Koprakalam, Thrissur; who came to visit her daughter in a visiting visa, took place in Sharjah due to lack of flight services. The body of Jewel G Jome (16), Chamakkalavilayil, Mallassery, Pathanamthitta who passed away last week due to cancer, was sent back to India in a cargo plane. Who could ever answer the tears of grief with which they might have watched their son’s funeral through Facebook?

Former Statistics Dept professor of Maharajas college, Prof. M. Sreekumaran(70) who came to visit his family, now has to rest in this soil forever. Kadaikodu Renju Cyriac who died of a heart attack in Kuwait, his mother who passed away due to the shock of her son’s death, Malavika Manoj(16)daughter of Manoj Vadakara who passed away in Bahrain, Satheesh Kumar (41) who was working as a storekeeper in Hamad town, Mayancheri Kunjammad (82) who was on a visiting visa at Bahrain, Bijeesh and Sujith who died in Oman, and how many such grieving souls in this time of Corona.

Vineeth Kumar had to witness his wife’s and precious daughter’s funeral through Video call as they lost their lives in Kuwait. In yet another heartbreaking incident, a 12th standard student Ahmed Siyad pursuing his education in Dubai, passed away to rest inland of Dubai in the Al Quoz graveyard. The central government’s ignorance has left a permanent stained scar in the living members of these families.

Meanwhile, the skyscraping image built by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, throwing in crores and crores of taxpayers’ money, has started to collapse. The sooner he takes action, the least he could save of the remaining glitter. Or else, along with the constant struggles of these expatriates, the future of those who might seek a job in Gulf countries remain bleak.

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