Althaf Ullal and Basheer Sagar
MANGALURU: With no Vande Bharat mission to Karnataka from Saudi Arabia, two Mangalurean businessmen there have hired a chartered flight to send home 167 people – including stranded visit visa holders and laid-off workers – free of cost.
Althaf Ullal, managing director of Saad Al Qahtani Contracting (SAQCO), and company CEO Basheer Sagar are awaiting permission from the Indian government for the flight, which will bring the passengers to Mangaluru International Airport. SAQCO is based in Al Khobar in Saudi Arabia.
The flight is estimated to cost Rs 45 lakh. Trip coordinators said an evacuation flight home would cost at least Rs 20,000 per ticket and many of those stranded could not afford it in these circumstances.
‘We are awaiting govt nod to fly’
We have identified needy passengers and are awaiting the government’s nod to fly,” said Asif, founder of Team B- Human, who is coordinating the operation from Mangaluru.
“After the Covid-19 outbreak, NRIs suffered a lot and helping them is our utmost responsibility. When they were running businesses successfully or had jobs, they used to contribute wholeheartedly to development activities back home and actively participated in them too. The support extended by Althaf Ullal and Basheer Sagar is not just timely help but a moral responsibility and gesture of gratitude. They particularly worried about people facing health issues and loss of jobs due to the Covid-induced slump.”
SAQCO will bear the ticket fare for all 167 passengers. “Eligible Kannadigas have been prioritised to travel, with preference to pregnant women, senior citizens, those with medical emergencies, stranded visit visa holders, distressed workers and expats who have lost a dear one in India,” said Asif. Those requiring assistance can contact Hakeem (+966 537155388) or mail email@example.com.
Recently, Althaf and Basheer distributed 6,000 food kits to the needy; the duo also support several educational institutions, NGOs and religious centres.