Kerala HC defers plea for evacuating Keralites stranded in Middle East

South India

The hopes of Keralites stranded in Gulf countries to return home have diminished with the Kerala high court saying it cannot force the central government to evacuate them until the Covid-19 lockdown is in force.  

A bench comprising Justice Raja Vijayarghavan and T R Ravi has adjourned the hearing on the petitions seeking a direction to the central government to evacuate the Indians stranded in the Middle East till the end of the lockdown.

The petitioners had sought a special consideration for Keralites stranded in Gulf countries, in the light of the fact that Kerala Government has expressed willingness to take them back, and also due to availability of better infrastructure to quarantine the returnees.

However, the court asked whether the state was prepared to face influx. The court noted that the state may need 5,000 additional doctors and 20, 000 nurses to take care of at least 100,000 citizens returning from the Gulf.

The state government and Non-resident Keralite organisations in the Middle East have been mounting pressure on the Centre for opening the airways to bring back the Keralite pointing out that the condition of the people there was bad.

The government of India has been maintaining that it was advisable for Indians in foreign countries to stay there at the moment, and wait for the condition to improve to return home. The Supreme Court had also upheld this stand.

The state government and NRK organisations have been expressing concern over the condition of the people following a spurt in infection rate in the Gulf region where around 1.8 million emigrants from the state work.

As per the latest statistics, 22 Keralites have died in the Gulf region so far.  Seven of them died this week alone. As many as 3000 are battling with the virus at present.

Officials of Non-resident Keralites Affairs department said that they were getting distress calls every day from people trapped in the Gulf. A majority of them want to come back at the earliest. Since there are no flights now operating in the Kerala-Gulf sector, they have no choice but to stay put.

Around 400,000 people are expected to return if the Centre grants permission for evacuation. The officials said that pressure was also mounting from the families of expats back home. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has informed the prime minister that the state was prepared to receive the migrants arriving from the Gulf.

“We are very concerned about the situation in Gulf. We will welcome all our people back and have made arrangements to provide them with the best possible support and care once they reach Kerala. The state has earmarked 140,000 rooms and special corona care homes to lodge the Gulf returnees,” the chief minister was quoted by India Today as saying.

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