Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, who holds the charge of Non-Resident Keralites’ Affairs (NORKA), says that his government would be going ahead with the NRI Commission with quasi-judicial powers to resolve complaints from the expats…writes Sabin Iqbal, Associate Editor, Asian Lite Arabia
Kerala Chief Minister Mr Pinarayi Vijayan has made a slew of announcements including rehabilitation packages for expatriates and investment proposals during his maiden visit to the UAE.
Vijayan, who is on a three-day visit to the Gulf country where over two million Indians live, majority of them from Kerala, has also invited rulers of both Dubai and Sharjah to visit the southern state.
Thanking Dr Sheikh Sultan Bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, ruler of Sharjah, for accepting the invitation and likely to visit Kerala in September 2017, Vijayan said that various proposals were discussed with the ruler. One of them is to build a cultural centre and a ‘family city’ to provide affordable housing for the Malayali community in Sharjah.
“I have given the proposals in writing, and he (the ruler) instructed his officials in front of us to look into them and take action,” he said at a press conference in Dubai.
Vijayan, who holds the charge of Non-Resident Keralites’ Affairs (NORKA), assured a large gathering of community members at Dubai Media City’s amphitheatre that his government would be going ahead with the NRI Commission with quasi-judicial powers to resolve complaints from the expats. “We have ironed out the initial difficulties faced by the Commission, and it will go ahead as planned,” he said. The government of Kerala had announced the setting of a four-member commission earlier in the year.
The chief minister also announced a rehabilitation package of six months’ salary for the Malayali expatriates who lose their job in the Gulf. He also said that the government would take steps to repatriate dead bodies of expats free of charge.
The Kerala government will soon launch a job portal to facilitate those who come back to the state, and provide skills-training facilities for those who apply for jobs, he said. He has also assured the community that steps would be taken to prevent exploitation of job applicants and that fraudulent agencies will be blacklisted.
Vijayan has also met a group of business people from the state and assured them that their investments in the state would be given guarantee by the government. The chief minister, while briefing them the investment opportunities in the state, explained the government’s plan to attract investments to the tune of Rs 50,000 crore in five years through the newly-formed Kerala Infrastructure Investment Fund Board (KIIFB), which has already approved 48 projects worth over Rs 4,000 crore.
He has also met the officials of Tecom Group, a Dubai Holding company, which is setting Kochi Smart City. Vijayan told the media that the Tecom officials have promised to finish the project a year ahead of schedule in 2021. He added that there are investment interests from the Tecom to collaborate with the government. “They have also shown interest in collaborating with us in various projects in sectors like tourism, coastline area development and Ayurveda.” However, Vijayan has said that Air Kerala, an airline project proposed by the previous government, is not on his list of priorities.
He has also visited labour camps at Al Quoz in Dubai to get a hang of the expatriate Malayalis’ life in reportedly squalid conditions.
While the chief minister’s visit to the UAE will surely bring a spring in the expatriates’ stride and drum up support for himself, but it has to be seen how many of these ambitious announcements get translated into reality.
The Kerala expatriate community in the Gulf has never been shy of promises from visiting ministers but the fact remains that there are still a lot of be done to the community which plays a vital role in the economy of the state. Since the Left Democratic Front’s campaign promise was that they would set everything right, the Malayali community can take heart in the wake of the chief minister’s visit.