Indian diaspora allured by the name of welfare, development

Written by ASHOK B SHARMA | New Delhi, Jan 9 | Updated: Jan 10 2008, 04:15am hrs
The government has decided to launch a welfare scheme for Indian overseas workers in the West Asian countries.

The location of an University for the children of the Indian diaspora - persons of Indian origin (PIO) will soon be decided India is slated to join the Hague Convention sponsored by Holland, which would facilitate application of international private law to the PIOs.

Speaking at a working session on Gulf countries at the 6th Pravasi Bharatiya Divas on Wednesday, the minister of overseas Indian affairs, Vayalar Ravi "My ministry has already prepared a note on the welfare scheme for Indian overseas workers in the West Asian countries and have sent it to the Union Cabinet for approval. The proposals contained therein relates to the welfare of their families residing in the country also their welfare on their return to India."

The 6th Pravasi Bharatiya Divas was jointly organized by the Union ministry of overseas India affairs, Delhi government and the Confederation of Indian Industries.

Ravi assured : "My ministry is exclusively for the welfare of Indians working in different parts of the globe. We are for resolving the difficulties they face abroad."

In reply to the question raised by some overseas India workers asking for intervention in getting the assured minimum wages, Ravi said : "I cannot make an assurance. Such matters need to be taken up at diplomatic levels."

The Union minister of state for external affairs, E Ahamed disclosed that a number of agreements and MoUs were underway with Gulf countries. He also shared the roadblocks that the Indian Government faces in implementing some of the plans in view of the varied domestic rules and regulations of the Gulf countries.

Andhra Pradesh minister for energy & coal, minorities welfare, Wakf Urdu Academy, Mohammad Shabbir Ali cautioned the Government against non-conformity with labour agreements. Kerala minister for industries, Elamaram Kareem suggested the constitution of a Core Group and setting up of regional level single window clearance systems for PIO investments and projects Later briefing the mediapersons at the conclusion of the two-day Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, Ravi said that the government was also in constant touch with the developments relating to the Indian workers in Malaysia. "The Malaysian government has today dismissed the reports of a freeze on recruitment of workers from India," he said and added that he was surprised how the matter cropped up when both the governments have initiated a process to sign a MoU for Visa-on-Arrival scheme.

The news reports about the ban came during a visit by Defence Minister A K Antony to Malaysia, triggering a furor in India. Malaysian Works Minister Samy Vellu, who is in New Delhi to attend the conference of overseas Indians, had denied the reports yesterday itself. Vellu, also the President of the Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC) -- a component of the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition, said that he had contacted Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and Home Ministry Secretary-General to get a clearer picture on the issue.

"It is not true. There is no such thing," Vellu told reporters when asked about the reports of freeze on employment of Indian workers. There are about 150,000 Indian workers in Malaysia, constituting 19.6% of overseas Indians.

However, according to sources, amidst conflicting reports over the ban on recruitment of workers from India, Malaysia has conveyed to New Delhi that it wanted an early agreement to regulate such employment in that country. The defence minister AK Antony, who returned from Kuala Lumpur yesterday, said the Malaysian government was unhappy over the delay in signing a proposed MoU that would regulate the employment conditions and welfare of Indian workers in Malaysia and Malaysian nationals in India. The external affairs minister, Pranab Mukherjee is also slated to discuss with Malaysian works minister, Samy Vellu the issue related to the reported ban on Indian workers.

Ravi said that his ministry would take up with the civil aviation ministry about more flights to Gulf countries. The civil aviation minister, Praful Patel said that Kingfisher Airlines would be permitted to fly abroad, apart from Air India and Jet Airways.

Ravi said that his ministry will work on for the implementation of the India Development Foundation for chanelising PIO contributions for empowerment of rural women and vocational training, establishment of the Global Advisory Council of the Persons of Indian Origin (PIO), PIO University as recommended by the Prime Minister of India. The Union minister for women and child development, Renuka Chowdhury also urged the PIOs to generously contribute towards the fund.

The commerce and industry minister, Kamal Nath addressing a session said that amidst the shift in the global economic architecture, India has experienced a huge transformation since the early nineties when economic reforms were launched. Today India's engagement with the global economy was around $ 450 billion and foreign exchange reserves were at a record level of $ 270 billion. India followed an "India specific" model and was now globally competitive. He said that Indian companies were now heavily investing abroad, and the consumer market was growing at a fast pace.

He said that the success of China was due to its SMEs, not the large corporations. Chinese SMEs get the support of their diaspora, while the Chinese government supported their large enterprises. The minister urged the Indian Diaspora to lend their intellectual and entrepreneurship resources to build the Indian SME sector and engage it with the SMEs worldwide.

The Canadian minister of small business and entrepreneurship, Harvinder Takhar Canada, said PIOs can promote trade between their home country and India, as they understand both countries. He highlighted the initiatives taken in his home constituency Ontario to promote trade in terms of reduction of paper work and opening of a marketing office in Delhi. Trade and investment opportunities were also the highlights of the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas with a number of Indian industry leaders participating in the discussions. The chief ministers of Delhi, Gujarat, Kerala and Jharkhand appealed to PIOs to explore investment opportunities.

The President of India, Pratibha Devisingh Patil while addressing the valedictory session applauded the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas's attempt to focus on issues of social development, rural entrepreneurship, women empowerment and urged the diaspora forum to "transform and implement" the ideas and partnerships that have emerged from the various sessions of the two day conference.

The Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, inaugurating the 6th Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, on Tuesday said that the idea of India transcends the narrow barriers of religion, language, caste or class, both within and outside the Indian nation. He announced the launch of an 'Overseas Workers Resource Center' (OWRC) which will provide all relevant information and assistance to potential migrant workers. He also announced the establishment of Prime Minister's Global Advisory Council of People of Indian Origin. The security and welfare of Indian residents living abroad was a top priority of our diplomatic missions, he said.

Mauritius Prime Minister Navinchandra Ramgoolam was the chief guest of the occasion and conferred the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Award on the opening day.