Support group pledges to act as 'guardian' for Indians in need across the globe
The voluntary organisation was founded to help workers trapped by agents or facing hardship because of the pandemic
A welfare group was set up by a Dubai businessman, a former New Delhi diplomat and a social worker to help Indians in need all over the globe.
The volunteers will support compatriots who have lost jobs in the pandemic or fallen prey to corrupt agents or employers return to their homeland.
The organisation, called Rescuing Every Distressed Indian Overseas, will work with consulates and a network of volunteers in countries in the Middle East, Africa and the Far East with large populations of Indian residents.
There are people who are vulnerable.
Somebody has to be their guardian
Dnyaneshwar Mulay, former diplomat
Within days of posting their contact details on Facebook two weeks ago, Redio had received dozens of calls for help from Indians across the Gulf.
The effort has the support of Dnyaneshwar Mulay, who served as secretary in India’s Ministry of External Affairs and was the country’s consul general in New York.
Mr Mulay hopes to use his contacts with ministries in India, overseas missions to coordinate efforts and provide legal help when necessary.
“There are people who are vulnerable, like maids and workers. They are victims of circumstance and suffer a lot when they are trapped,” Mr Mulay told The National from New Delhi.
“Not everybody can approach the embassy, somebody has to be their guardian.”
He called on citizens to work together because the number of people in distress was too high for government officials to handle alone.
“When there is retrenchment, workers sometimes starve, they simply want to get back and we need to look out for them,” said Mr Mulay, who set up programmes to care for Indians stranded overseas during his tenure in the foreign service.
“It’s an impossible task for the embassies because of the sheer volume. More people should come forward.”
Moved by the plight of workers hit by redundancies in the Gulf last year, team members had identified thousands desperate to fly back.
While there is no longer a rush of people queueing to return home, they believe there is a need for one organisation that people can reach out to.
“This will help speed up things,” said Dubai businessman Rahul Tulpule, who is in charge of the Middle East and Africa region for the group.
“We realised that however much the consulate or any government department does to help, it has limitations. If you need tickets for people to fly out quickly, they will take time for approvals.
“But a private person can book the tickets quickly. The whole idea is to have a complementing system so we can move things along.”
In June when hundreds of thousands of people registered with Indian missions to return home, New Delhi initially struggled to cope with massive pleas for repatriation across the globe.
More than 4.47 million Indians have since returned from across the world in the world’s largest repatriation exercise, according to India’s Civil Aviation Ministry.
Authorities said of this, 1.3 million Indians left the UAE for home when international flights resumed in May.
Mr Tulpule helped more than 4,000 people from the UAE, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait get on private flights.
He secured permissions from authorities in Indian cities for charter flights and coordinated with community members to sponsor tickets.
Redio has helped a driver who lost his job in Saudi Arabia after incurring a hefty fine for walking out to buy bread and milk during curfew hours.
Former Dubai resident Dhanashree Patil worked with the embassy in Riyadh to arrange an emergency exit certificate, waive the fine and connected him with Mr Tulpule, who paid his airfare.
“We want to help people anywhere in the world in need. It can be labourers or families who are stuck,” said Ms Patil, who is in India to take care of family.
There are numerous cases of workers duped by agents who withhold their passports.
Consulates and government authorities have warned workers against signing up with unregistered agents.
“People get scared because they have been living without a visa. Their fear is they will be put in jail and can never return home,” Ms Patil said.
“We will handle each case carefully.”
Rakesh Patil, the 32-year-old chauffeur, said he was frightened when slapped with a fine.
He was not paid two months salary and had no means to return to India.
“I stayed in a room with a friend, asked friends in India to send me money to eat, but it was difficult to know what to do,” said Mr Patil who returned home on a special flight last week .
“I heard of this group and asked for help. I was in a lot of tension but they told me all would be okay and I am finally home.”
Registered in New Delhi, Redio will send out information via Facebook to connect with Indians overseas in need for assistance. There are also plans to extend its reach to Europe and the Americas.
Updated: January 31, 2021 03:50 PM