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10 Jan, 2013

Indian Diaspora Pushes for an “Air Kerala” to Boost Links With Gulf

Pravasi Bharatiya Divas media release

KOCHI, January 7, 2012 – The Government of India and the Government of Kerala today assured Non-Resident Indians, NRIs, in the Gulf, particularly, Malayalis, that their demands for better air connectivity to Kerala, grant of voting rights in local bodies, and liberal baggage and gold allowance, would be addressed on priority.

Inaugurating a seminar on NRIs in the Gulf organised just before the 11th Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD) here on Monday, Mr. Vayalar Ravi, Union Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs, said, “I am deeply aware of the problems faced by Malayalis settled in the Gulf and I assure you that I will take up your suggestions with the Prime Minister and my Cabinet colleagues for expeditious redressal of your problems.”

Alluding to the problems and the alleged opposition by Air India to the State Government’s proposal to launch ‘Air Kerala’, a state airline to improve connectivity between the Gulf region and India, Mr. Ravi said that the Union Government would try to sort out the issue on priority.

In his keynote address Mr. Oommen Chandy, Chief Minister, Kerala, expressed gratitude to non-resident Keralites in the Gulf who annually remit foreign exchange worth Rs. 60,000 crore, a fifth of the State’s Domestic Product.

He assured the delegates that the issue of voting rights in local bodies raised by Malayalis, would be addressed in the next session of State Assembly as the Government had decided to amend the Representation of Peoples’ Act and the Kerala Panchayath Act. Voting rights in Parliamentary and Assembly Elections have already been granted to NRIs.

Earlier, Mr. Ravi and Mr. Chandy inaugurated the exhibition and released, two reports at the seminar — ‘Connecting with Indian Diaspora’ and ‘India Migration Report 2013’.

Mr. K C Joseph, Minister of Non-Resident Keralites Affairs Department (NORKA) & Culture, Government of Kerala, urged the Central Government to allow NRI women and men to bring in 100 gms and 50 gms of gold, respectively, into the country from the present allowance of Rs. 10,000 worth of gold for women and Rs. 20,000 for men.

He suggested to the Ministry of External Affairs that to address the problems faced by NRIs,  the staff strength of Indian embassies should be substantially strengthened and called for the appointment of a senior Malayali-speaking officer in the embassy so that their problems are better understood and corrective actions taken expeditiously.

Mr. E Ahamed, Minister of State for External Affairs, Government of India, pointed out that according to the World Bank report, India has received remittances of $70 billion in 2012, the highest in the world followed by China. The sharp increase in remittances to India has come from Gulf countries where mostly the unskilled and semi-skilled workers are remitters.

He assured the delegates that the Central Government was alive to the problems faced by overseas Indians and offered all help in finding solutions to these issues.

Other speakers who addressed the delegates were Mr. K Babu, Minister for Excise & Ports, Government; Mr. M I Shanavas, Member of Parliament; Mr. M K Raghavan, Member of Parliament and Mr. Yusuffali M A, Vice Chairman, NORKA ROOTS.

In the panel discussion with NRIs, Mr. Hibi Eden, Member of Legislative Assembly, Kerala; Mr. Issac Thomas, President, Kerala Pradesh Pravasi Congress; Mr. A R Ghanashyam, Joint Secretary (Gulf), Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India; Mr. V Vumlunmang, Joint Secretary (Foreigners), Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India and India’s Ambassadors from the GCC countries, shared their perspectives and sought to allay the apprehensions of the NRIs.