The crumbling dream

THE WEEK|May 17, 2020

The crumbling dream
The plight of Malayalis in the Gulf region is a shock to Kerala’s economy
CITHARA PAUL

LAST MONTH, one of the richest Malayali businessmen in the Persian Gulf—Joy Arakkal, of the $125-million Innova Refining and Trading FZE—jumped off his 14th-floor office in Dubai and died. He had been battling financial problems related to the economic crash triggered by Covid-19.

Anil Nair (name changed), an engineer at an automobile company in Oman, came home to Palakkad in early March for the birth of his child. He has been stuck in Kerala since then. Last week, he and some of his colleagues received termination notices from their employer. Anil worries that he will not be able to repay his hefty home and car loans.

Razeena, a 28-year-old single mother from Aluva, had left her two-year-old daughter with her parents to work as a housemaid in the Gulf. But the Malayali couple she works for have lost their jobs and are planning to return home. She, too, wants to return, but has no money left to buy a flight ticket.

Sumesh (name changed), an accountant in a small firm in Sharjah, lives in fear with his wife, a pharmacist, and their 12-year-old daughter in an apartment block shared by seven families. There are four Covid-19 patients in the flat next to theirs. Both Sumesh and his wife have lost their jobs, and they have no funds left to pay for rent, school fees and groceries. They have sought the help of the state government to send their daughter home; the couple are planning to stay in Sharjah and ride out the storm.

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May 17, 2020