HYDERABAD: A private chartered flight carrying 250 people from the United States landed at the Rajiv Gandhi International Airport (RGIA) during the early hours of June 26. It had picked up passengers belonging to multiple cities from USA.
The flight was a unique one because it was sanctioned not by the government, but by Washington-based entrepreneur Ravi Puli, a Telugu NRI. After Puli became aware that many NRIs in USA were at risk of becoming ‘illegal immigrants’ by overstaying their Visa due to the lockdown, he took it upon himself to bring them back.
Puli formed a not for profit organisation, ‘US India Solidarity Mission’ (USISM). Over the next three weeks, he procured clearances from the Indian government, Qatar government and the airport authorities in Hyderabad and Doha and the respective consulates and embassies.
Raj and Surekha, a couple from Hyderabad, both advocates in High Court, said they had come to the US for a visit, and had planned to return to India in March. As the lockdown was announced, they were stranded in USA and all their attempts to return to Hyderabad had failed. In this situation, Ravi Puli and USISM helped them return to India.
It is learnt from the passengers that pregnant women and senior citizens were given free upgrades to business class in the flight. Neharika, a student from New York who was a passenger on the flight, said social distancing norms were followed during the flight.
Another family which were stuck in Mexico said they had had a death in the family, and hence wanted to return to India. They were supposed to take a flight to Chicago to catch the chartered flight, but missed the flight. Then the USISM team sent them to Dallas to take the Qatar Airways flight to India.
Puli thanked the Indian embassy in Washington and Qatar, and the Ministry of External Affairs, Civil Aviation and the governments of India and Telangana for their cooperation in arranging the flight.