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Major omission by minister on NRIs

delhi Updated: Apr 26, 2007 23:40 IST
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The Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs, Vayalar Ravi, forgot to include a large number of his countrymen when he responded to a question in Parliament on Thursday. Significantly, a vast majority of those whom he forgot are from his home state, Kerala.

Replying to a question in the Rajya Sabha about the population of overseas Indians, country-wise, raised by Shreegopal Vyas and Rudra Narayan Pany, Ravi provided a detailed list of overseas Indians, spread across 123 countries. But he forgot to mention a significant number of overseas Indians based in the United Arab Emirates and Uganda.

Both these omissions are glaring. There were anti-Indian riots in Uganda earlier this month, in which an Indian citizen, Devang Raval, was killed on April 12.

The incident brought back memories of the massive anti-Indian purge ordered by Idi Amin back in 1972 and raised the spectre of similar violence. There are between seven and eight thousand Indians living in Uganda today and an equal number of people of Indian origin there who are citizens of other countries.

And according to the Ministry of External Affairs, a majority of Indians in the UAE are from Kerala. There are more than 1.2 million Indians living in the UAE.

Considering the enormous contribution, in the form of remittances and otherwise, from this community of overseas Indians it is strange the answer was not adequately vetted before it was presented, in writing to the Rajya Sabha.

When contacted, senior officials in the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs, said it must have been an "error." The Secretary, Nirmal Singh, said he would check on the matter tomorrow.

There is, surprisingly, no mention of Indians in Singapore either, though Ravi's reply says that 2,050,000 Indians are resident in Malaysia.