Following Kerala's example, the Andhra Pradesh cabinet on Thursday decided to set up a separate cell to address problems of the non-resident Indians (NRIs) from the state working in the Gulf countries.
The cell, headed by the protocol secretary in the state government, will have four members and it will take measures to protect jobseekers from the exploitation by unscrupulous travel agents and will also help the workers in distress.
The cabinet meeting, presided over by Chief Minister YS Rajasekhara Reddy, took the decision in accordance with the recommendation of a panel constituted by the state government last year.
As disturbing reports of the workers landing in jails, being exploited by job agents and employers and even of some committing suicides continued to pour in from the Gulf region, the state government felt the need to set up a cell devoted to the issue.
The six-member panel headed by Minister for Information and Public Relations Mohammed Ali Shabbir had recommended setting up a separate NRI department on the lines of the one in Kerala.
An announcement to this effect was made during the fourth Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, the annual conclave of the Indian diaspora, held here January 7-9.
The minister, who had visited the UAE, found bodies of migrant workers lying unclaimed in hospitals.
The panel had proposed to the government to set up a corpus fund to extend financial assistance for bringing bodies home.
According to Shabbir, 53 of the 80 Indian workers who committed suicide in the UAE during 2005 were from the state.
In line with the panel's recommendation, the state government in March had set up a manpower corporation.
Overseas Manpower Company Andhra Pradesh (OMCAP) Limited is assisting jobseekers by coordinating passports, visas, air-tickets and organising occupational competency certificates.
According to the 2001 census, the NRIs from Andhra Pradesh, numbering about one million, constituted the second largest community of Indians in the Gulf, second only to Kerala that has 1.5 million NRIs in the region.
Saudi Arabia was hosting the highest number of NRIs from Andhra Pradesh - around 500,000, followed by the UAE (250,000), Kuwait (80,000), Oman (65,000), Qatar (35,000) and Bahrain (25,000).