SOURCE : N. RAGHU RAMAN - DNA

Indians flee Dubai as dreams crash

Mumbai/DUBAI - JAN 14: It's the great escape by Indians who've hit the dead-end in Dubai.

Local police have found at least 3,000 automobiles -- sedans, SUVs, regulars -- abandoned outside Dubai International Airport in the last four months. Police say most of the vehicles had keys in the ignition, a clear sign they were left behind by owners in a hurry to take flight.

The global economic crisis has brought Dubai's economic progress, mirrored by its soaring towers and luxurious resorts, to a stuttering halt. Several people have been laid off in the past months after the realty boom started unraveling.

On the night of December 31, 2008 alone more than 80 vehicles were found at the airport. "Sixty cars were seized on the first day of this year," director general of Airport Security, Mohammed Bin Thani, told DNA over the phone. On the same day, deputy director of traffic, colonel Saif Mohair Al Mazroui, said they seized 22 cars abandoned at a prohibited area in the airport.

Faced with a cash crunch and a bleak future ahead, there were no goodbyes for the migrants -- overwhelmingly South Asians, mostly Indians - just a quiet abandoning of the family car at the airport and other places.

While 2,500 vehicles have been found dumped in the past four months outside Terminal III, which caters to all global airlines, Terminal II, which is only used by Emirates Airlines, had 160 cars during the same period.

"The construction and real estate industry has been hit following the global slowdown and the direct fallout is that professionals working in the realty industry are rapidly losing their jobs," said a senior media professional, in-charge of a realty supplement in Dubai. "In fact, my weekly real estate supplement usually had 60% advertisement and ran into 300-odd pages. In the last seven weeks, it's down to 80 pages and with fewer advertisments," he added.

Mumbai resident D Nair (name changed) had been living in a plush highrise in Sharjah for the past four years. However, the script went horribly wrong when his contract was terminated. Nair used all his credit cards to their maximum limit, shopping for people back home. He then discarded his Honda Accord before returning to India for good. Nair, who stays in a rented apartment in Navi Mumbai today, has a Rs15 lakh loan with a Dubai bank.

Another such victim of the meltdown said he bid goodbye to his car in a small bylane near the airport and hailed a cab. "I was scared because a number of us were doing the same and did not want to be questioned by the police. There was no way I could afford to pay the EMI of 1100 Dhirams for my Ford Focus," he told DNA on condition of anonymity.

When contacted, the dealer for Asgar Ali cars in Sharjah said, "We are helpless and do not know how to tackle this issue. A large number of such owners are from Indian, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and other South Asian countries."