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Andhra proposes special fund for NRI contingencies

A study group has urged setting up of a corpus fund to extend financial assistance to bring back bodies of deceased NRIs from the Gulf region.

india Updated: Jan 05, 2006 21:26 IST

An Andhra Pradesh study group has recommended setting up of a corpus fund to extend financial assistance to bring back bodies of deceased non-resident Indians (NRIs) from the Gulf region and to meet any other contingencies.

According to Minister for Information and Public Relations Mohammed Ali Shabbir, who headed a Study Group on NRIs, 80 Indian workers committed suicide in the UAE during 2005 including 53 from Andhra Pradesh.

He said families of many of the deceased were very poor and not in a position to bring the bodies back here for last rites.

Shabbir, who along with other members of the study group recently visited the UAE, also expressed concern over the plight of workers there.

He said several farmers and people from drought-affected districts who went to the Gulf region in search of livelihood were either cheated by travel agents or were being exploited by employers.

"Majority of these labourers went there on visitor visa and are now staying illegally," he said. "They don't even get minimum wages. Some of these farmers and agricultural labourers are forced to end their lives there," he added.

To ensure that travel agents did not cheat gullible people, the study group also recommended setting up of a centre for verification of visas, certificates and other travel documents, Shabbir said.

The study group has also recommended introduction of a group insurance scheme for NRIs covering accident, health and other risks. A special insurance package for their family members and aged parents and a pension scheme has also been mooted.

The six-member group was formed by the state government in January 2005 to analyse problems faced by NRIS from the state, especially those living in the Gulf, and make recommendations to address them.

The group recommended registration of recruitment agents and overseas educational consultancies by the state government.

The recruitment agents would have to select candidates only from the overseas employment exchange to be set up under the aegis of the proposed Overseas Manpower Corporation.

A single-window cell, which is proposed to be set up to deal with problems faced by NRIs, would undertake programmes to teach basic Arabic and English language skills and social etiquette to house-maids, drivers and other semi-skilled workers, looking for jobs abroad.

The group also asked the government to create a data bank containing information of all the NRIs residing in different countries and to issue smart cards to facilitate verification of sponsorship for job and visit visas at the time of immigration.

"The government could join hands with local companies to develop eye-scanning and fingerprinting technology for storing individuals' data while they move out or return to the country," said the 120-page report submitted to Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy.

Taking a cue from Kerala, the group also recommended setting up a separate department to deal with NRI issues. An announcement to this effect is likely to be made during the fourth Pravasi Bharatiya Divas or Indian Diaspora Day, to be held here from January 7.

The special cell under the department would undertake several assignments including introduction of special schemes, advise and assist NRIs for investment in the state and coordinate with various departments.

According to the 2001 data, there were about one million NRIs from Andhra Pradesh in the Gulf countries, constituting the second largest Indian community there, after Kerala that has 1.5 million of its population working in the region.

Saudi Arabia has the highest number of NRIs from Andhra Pradesh - around 500,000, followed by the UAE with 250,000, Kuwait 80,000, Oman 65,000, Qatar 35,000 and Bahrain 25,000.

First Published: Jan 02, 2006 12:20 IST