Indian's body stuck in New Zealand for want of funds

Wellington: The body of an Indian student who died here last week after being pulled out from the sea, has got stuck in New Zealand with his family unable to raise the money needed to transport the body home.

Boobesh Palani, 26, was pulled out from the Wellington harbour off the coast of Eastbourne when his cries were heard from about 50 metres off the coast on March 30.

He was taken to the Hutt Hospital and then transferred to Wellington the next day. It took three days to identify him and his family in India was subsequently contacted. Palani died on April 3.

However, his family cannot afford the NZ$15,000 (nearly $11,310) in funeral and transportation costs, the Domninion Post reported on Tuesday.

Palani's father is retired, his mother is a housewife and his sister works as an administrator at a small firm.

Also, none of them holds current passports and so is unable to fly to New Zealand to organise the repatriation of Palani's body home.

Friends and members of the Indian community heard about the family's plight and three people of Indian-origin -- Rama Ramanathan, Senthil Kumaran Kathiresan, and Moorthy Sukari -- have set up a fund to help the family.

Kathiresan was a close friend of Palani and described him as a quiet, soft-spoken man who loved cricket.

He said the family would do anything to have their boy's body back, but that would probably mean going into debt.

"They are never going to leave their son here, but they would have to go into some debt to do it," he said.

Kathiresan was in contact with Palani's father and said that the family was in a state of shock.

"The father is managing to cope, but the mother and sister weren't able to digest the news well and ended up falling ill. The family is very shocked."

Community worker Ramanathan said he had worked with overseas students for many years and knew how much money some families spent to ensure their children came to New Zealand for education.

"These are not rich families, these are poor families that take out loans to do this. Also, Palani has a young unmarried sister, which is a big obligation for the family."

The three men are contacting funeral directors, airlines, and various authorities to find out exactly how much is needed to send Palani's body home and how fast it can be arranged.

They have raised NZ$3800, but that is well short of the NZ$25,000 they think they will need.

Complicating matters, Palani's student visa expired the day after he was pulled out from the harbour, and so the three men are unsure if insurance will cover the costs.

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