Three migrant labourers from West Bengal living in Diva near Thane sold their goats and a gold ring and borrowed money to buy air tickets. But they were left high and dry because the flight was cancelled.
Sona Mullah, Raheema Khatum and Farid Mullah, who hail from three nearby villages in Murshidabad, have been working in Mumbai for varied durations over the past decade. They reached the airport here, paying ₹2,000 for a taxi. Then, they came to know that the aircraft was not taking off any time soon.
As a video of the May 25 incident went viral on social media, thanks to a journalist of an English daily and several others, IndiGo offered to re-accommodate them on a different flight.
IndiGo said in a tweet, “We’ve re-accommodated the 3 passengers who were unable to travel to Kolkata. Their original booking had to be cancelled as the government of West Bengal has prohibited flights until May 28. We had offered to rebook them on the first service on May 28, but they have now decided to travel on June 1, and we have accommodated their travel plans at no additional charge.”
Mr. Sona Mullah broke down while speaking to this reporter. “We have no income since the lockdown. We tried repeatedly for train tickets and then heard about the resumption of flight services. My wife sold three goats back home in Murshidabad. It fetched us ₹9,600. She then borrowed ₹1,000 and we purchased this ticket,” he said.
Mr. Sona Mullah works as a helper in an air-conditioner repair shop. He knows the rules in times of COVID-19 are strict and there are the standard operating procedures (SOPs) to follow. “Staying here won’t help. I have been in Mumbai working for the last 20 months at a stretch. My three daughters and wife want me back,” he said. He plans to look for a job in Murshidabad before returning to Mumbai when the situation turns better.
“I have a daughter who needs to be married off. If not for this pandemic, my family would have been focusing on the wedding and not on my return,” he said.
While Ms. Khatum sold her ring to purchase the ticket, Farid Mullah borrowed and used his savings to get his ticket.
After the shock from the flight cancellation subsided and a few helped to make a video, the three made the trip back to Diva, paying another ₹2,000. They will return to board their 11.55 a.m. flight on June 1.