Kerala to seek Centre’s help for rehabilitation schemes for returning diaspora

Thiruvananthapuram, Nov 2 (IANS) Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Wednesday said though the Centre was lukewarm to requests for help with rehabilitation schemes for returning members of the diaspora, he would again take up the issue with New Delhi.

According to the latest study on Kerala’s 23.63 lakh diaspora, 90 per cent are working in various Middle East countries, of which UAE accounts for 38.7 per cent, followed by Saudi Arabia which has 25.2 per cent.

Vijayan told the state assembly that a grave situation now prevails in the Middle East with many countries implementing so-called “nationalisation” programmes, leaving thousands of the state’s disapora in a tight spot.

So far, though the situation in many Middle East countries is worrying, no exodus has been reported of returning diaspora.

“Falling oil prices in the Middle East have caused a huge dent to the hopes and aspirations of many Keralites who are now employed in various Middle East countries. In our budget early this year, we set aside Rs 40 crore for programmes for rehabilitation of the returning diaspora and for strengthening existing schemes,” said Vijayan.

Former Industries Minister P.K. Kunhalikutty, who raised the matter through a calling attention motion in the house, pointed out that while migration to the Middle East began in the 1970s, the situation today “is tough as many of these countries have now started the process of nationalisation by appointing locals to many of the jobs that were the forte of Keralites”.

“As things stand, with expenses mounting and oil prices dropping, the bright side of a job in the Middle East has dramatically dropped and signs are not that good,” said Kunhalikutty.

He said that while we have to explore if there are job options in countries in Africa and other places, Keralites must also introspect over the “false prestige” that prevents them from taking up jobs in Kerala.

“The situation in Kerala is that migrant labour from various states are drawing higher salaries than what some Keralites are earning in the Middle East. Things will dramatically change if Keralites shed their false prestige that they can’t do such jobs in Kerala, while they do all types of job once outside,” said Kunhalikutty.

Vijayan pointed out that the Norka (Non resident Keralite’s affairs) Department has already set up a scheme to extend a loan, subject to a maximum of Rs 20 lakh, for the returning diaspora to start their own ventures.

“This scheme has a liberal subsidy that is being provided by the state government. We will also encourage the returning diaspora to set up cooperative societies and all support will be provided for that,” said Vijayan.

–IANS

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