With many Indian migrants stranded abroad during the pandemic, one Dubai-based NRI has taken steps to send them back to their motherland. Known as UAE’s ‘Masala King’, Dhananjay M. Datar has rushed to the aid of thousands of desperate Indians queuing up outside the Indian Consulate, hoping for a ticket back home.
For many, India is now virtually the last resort as they have been thrown out of their rented homes and even forced to spend nights on the roads, some having lost their jobs and been rendered practically penniless, Datar said of their plight.
“There are many pregnant women, children, tourists and others on short-term visas who have been stranded here. So far, I have organized travel for over 3,000 people to Kerala, Chennai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Jaipur, Lucknow, Goa, Chandigarh,” the 56-year-old businessman confirmed.
The head of the reputed Al-Adil Trading LLC Group in the UAE has sponsored the tickets of over 1,000 Indians so far, while the others had booked in advance or possessed return tickets which came in handy.
As around 60,000 of these travellers were from Mumbai and Maharashtra, Datar reached out to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray last week. The CM responded promptly by writing to the Centre to permit the emergency evacuation. Datar hopes, with Thackeray’s personal intervention, that flights to Mumbai will be permitted soon under the Vande Bharat Mission.
All those in dire need of repatriation are screened, undergo a mandatory Covid-19 test borne by Al-Adil Group, and complete all other formalities before they are cleared for flights, he said.
This is where Indian Consul-General Vipul extended a helping hand to send home his blue and white-collared countrymen.
“We have already sent a dozen flights to India, repatriating over 3,000 people. The efforts of Datar come as a breath of fresh air in these times of masked existence. Support by way of Al-Adil Group sponsoring air tickets and conducting free Covid-19 tests is welcome,” said diplomat Vipul.
Before boarding a flight, one Indian was in tears: “I lost my job and got no pay for two months… I had no money for the air ticket, but now I am returning home.”
Another Indian and his 32-weeks pregnant wife were among the most desperate to return as she could deliver anytime and he wanted the child to be born in India, and he was luckily selected.
However, the award-winning entrepreneur Datar rests easy on the laurels he is earning for his humanitarian services.
“As a fellow Indian, concerned with the plight of those stranded here, I am simply doing my duty, along with the Indian Consulate and Air India. Many have run out of resources, so we are trying to ensure they return home as early as possible,” Datar said.
With nearly 16 daily flights from the UAE, Datar describes the Kerala government as “very aggressive” to bring back Keralites. In the UAE, nearly 65 percent of the workforce is Indian and 90 per cent businesses are owned or run by Indians.
The Al-Adil Group is the leading manufacturer and distributor of Indian foods and non-food items, with 34 outlets selling the ‘Peacock’ brand in the Arab world and India.
The entrepreneur, who rose from humble beginnings, ranks among the richest Indian NRIs, and helps Indian farmers by eliminating middlemen in procuring his requirements to ensure a best deal for them.
Datar has also been seen at events alongside top Bollywood stars like Madhuri Dixit, Karishma Kapoor, Juhi Chawla, and Shilpa Shetty, among many others associated with his products.