Rehabilitating Indian returnees from GCC

Published on Apr 11 2017 - - Gulf, NRI, Special - -

By:Javid Hassan
Senior Writer – Al Bilad

The Ministry of External Affairs in New Delhi has swung into action for rehabilitating returnees from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries affected by the fall in oil prices and loss of jobs under the Nitaqat (Saudization) scheme. It has instructed its Missions abroad to facilitate their return by providing logistic support and air tickets whenever required.

According to Dr. V.K.Singh, Minister of State for External Affairs, a total of 1877 workers had arrived in India from Saudi Arabia till November 11, 2016 following their loss of jobs. The rehab process for the returnees from various states is under way amid mounting challenges.

Under the new scheme, the applicants will be required to make deposits for five years while working in the Gulf countries. On their return, they would be authorized to receive twice the amount as loans for starting self-employment ventures. The Telangana state government has drawn up plans to provide up to Rs. 2 million in loans to a returnee.

A marathon meeting with officials was held recently by Telangana Minister for NRI affairs K.T. Rama Rao and the officials for examining the rehabilitation package. On an average each family was found to have debts ranging from Rs.700,000 to Rs.1 million incurred before their departure for the Gulf region. The Telangana state officials are also examining the rehabilitation package adopted by Kerala for Gulf returnees.

In Telangana, one of the major suppliers of manpower to the Gulf, the State Government says that of the estimated 400,000 people who have been working in the Gulf countries, half of them have returned during the last two years alone. The government will launch a special fund in the state’s budget for Gulf returnees as part of the rehabilitation scheme.

Besides financial aid, it also includes giving technical training and providing interest-free loans up to Rs 1million to set up units for upgrading their skills needed for the job market.

In Kerala, Minister for Rural Development and Non-Resident Keralite Affairs (NORKA) K.C. Joseph, has said the rehabilitation of the people returning from Gulf countries would be a major challenge looming ahead.

Joseph, who is seeking re-election from Irikkur constituency, referred to the State government’s decision to set up a Commission for Non-Resident Keralites for dealing with the challenges ahead. The proposal, however, could not materialise due to the election code of conduct.

As for the proposed financial assistance from banks to the Gulf returnees to help them tide over the crisis, they are reluctant to do so, since they are saddled with huge debts amounting to millions of dollars. Left with no alternative, the bank employees now present rose flowers to wilful defaulters as part of a strategy to shame them into repaying the loans.

In the process, the Gulf returnees have become the victims despite the fact that their remittances constitute around a third of Kerala’s net state domestic product of about Rs 3 trillion, says the state’s latest economic review.

Welfare Fund for Gulf returnees

The state government is trying to streamline the rehabilitation package for Gulf returnees, including the NORKA welfare Fund and subsidy for projects besides launching other schemes in this regard, observed Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan.

One of the issues discussed at the PBD Convention held in Bangalore from January 7-9, 2017 was how to rehabilitate the Indian returnees from the GCC countries. To this end, “the Central and State governments should give preference to Gulf returnees in jobs required for infrastructure development projects based on their skills. They have already worked on such projects using high-tech machinery. It will not only improve the quality of work but also save a lot of time and money,” observes Syed Ziaur Rahman, Managing Director, ZITCO Trading LLC (Dubai).

He points out that through the Gulf returnees India can attract investment from GCC countries, since most of them can communicate in Arabic and also know the mindset of Arabs. They can use their contacts to create business opportunities through trade and joint ventures.

“I would advise Gulf returnees not to depend only on the government for support. They should start their own SMEs and manufacture quality products for the international market. Once the Government of India sees the benefit of utilizing their technical skills, it will fund enterprises by employing skilled manpower from the returnees,” he adds.

At another level, an Indian returnee from London created history in 1999 when Ramji Raghavan, NRI banker, returned to India with a passion to promote quality rural education in the country. Through PPP (Public-Private-Partnership) his NGO, Agastya International, launched mobile schools, mobile clinics and mobile science labs in areas where facilities on the ground were not available.

The first such venture took off from a sprawling 172-acre creativity campus in Kuppam, Andhra Pradesh, for the benefit thousands of government school children.

India has 0.7 doctors for every 1,000 people, while the Indian diagnostic industry has an uneven growth rate. Of the more than 100,000 laboratories operating in the market, 70% labs provide mainly pathology services, while around 30% cater to the radiology and imaging needs. The Indian diagnostic market is expected to grow at CAGR 20% to reach $32 billion during 2012-2022 from $5 billion in2012.

On the educational front, 18% positions of teachers in government-run primary schools and 15% in secondary schools are lying vacant nationwide. The scope for operating Schools on Wheels, mobile clinics and mobile labs in India is, therefore, immense, as per the OECD data for 2016.

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