In 2004, when Neela Yellaiah decided to go to the UAE to work as a labourer in a construction company, his daughter was still a toddler. The little girl, Sunanda, grew up under her mother’s care, as her father toiled away in a foreign land. When Yellaiah left, little did he know that he wouldn’t be able to return to his family for a very long time.
Neela Yellaiah, hails from Chinthamanpalli village in Telangana’s Kamareddy district. Yellaiah, who was working as labourer in Dubai, returned home after 16 years of being stranded in the UAE. On Monday, he landed in Hyderabad on an Air India Express flight from Dubai to Hyderabad. He was received by his wife Rajayya and his family members, who had gathered at the Hyderabad airport to receive him.
For the last 16 years, Yellaiah took up several odd jobs in both Dubai and Sharjah. His passport was not returned to him by his first employer. Because of this he had lost hopes of ever reuniting with his family. Speaking to TNM, Neela Yellaiah said, “I worked as a construction labourer first, and then took up several odd jobs over the years. My passport was not returned to me by my first employer. I am glad to be back home with my family after 16 years.”
TNM also spoke to Yellaiah’s wife Rajavva about his return. She said, “In the last 16 years I worked as a daily wage labourer and raised my daughter. She was around 3 years old when he left. Today, she is married and has a child.” When asked if Yellaiah had managed to support her and the family, she said, “He would not have enough money for his own expenses. I have had to send him money from here when there was an emergency. I had to fend for the family myself. But we are glad to have him back home after so many years.”
Neela Yellaiah after reuniting with his family
Recently, Rupesh Mehta, a volunteer from the Jain Seva Mission, a social service organization, noticed Yellaiah’s plight and helped him apply for an emergency certificate from the Indian Consulate in Dubai. Yellaiah’s wife played a key role in ensuring her husband reached back home. She reached out to the Hyderabad Passport Office for the details of her husband’s old passport. They checked their database and provided the passport number and other details which were required to issue a temporary passport.
Jitender Singh Negi and Harjeet Singh, Labour Consuls at the Consular General of India, in Dubai helped in this regard. The consulate also provided a free air ticket from Dubai to Hyderabad to Yellaiah.
According to UAE immigration regulations, those whose visa expires and continue to reside illegally, will have to pay an overstay fine of 25 UAE Dirhams which amounts to Rs.500 per day. According to this rule, Yellaiah would have to pay a hefty fine of 1.46 lakh Dirhams, approximately Rs 29 lakh for the last several years. The Dubai immigration officials waived off the huge fine. He also got an exit permit (immigration out pass) to leave the UAE. In view of the present Corona pandemic, the amnesty scheme announced by the UAE government for three months, from 18 August to 17 November, became a blessing in disguise for Yellaiah. The UAE government has however not taken any action against the employer who confiscated the passport.
On reaching Hyderabad on Tuesday, Yellaiah was allowed to undergo home quarantine. Yellaiah’s return to his family, is the result of a lot of coordination and efforts by several people and organizations. Representatives of the Pravasi Mithra Labour Union in Hyderabad worked hard to coordinate with Yellaiah’s family members, social workers in Dubai, the passport office in Hyderabad and the Indian Consulate in Dubai to bring back Yellaiah from Dubai.
Before hanging up, Yellaiah’s wife mentioned that she was thankful to everyone, including all the officials who played a key role in bringing her husband back home. She also thanked Bheem Reddy Mandha, an emigration rights activist for his efforts. The activist has appealed to both the state and central government to provide rehabilitation for Yellaiah.
Migrant workers in distress in the Gulf countries and their family members in India can call the Pravasi Mithra helpline number +91 94916 13129 or the Govt of India toll free number 1800 11 3090, +91 11 4050 3090 and +91 11 2307 2536 for assistance and advice.