Gulf Indians are priority for Ravi
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Gulf Indians are priority for Ravi

New Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs, Vayalar Ravi, promises to address challenges faced by the 4-5 mn Indians in the Gulf.

india Updated: Jan 30, 2006 17:39 IST

Addressing the problems faced by the estimated four to five million Indians in the Gulf and giving voting rights to some non-residents will be a priority for new Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs Vayalar Ravi.

The veteran Congress party leader from Kerala, who took charge of the portfolio with a cabinet minister's rank here Monday, said he had already initiated steps to resolve the two issues during his first day at his new office.

"Efforts will be made to modernise the Protector General of Emigrant's office to make the process of migration transparent and orderly, as also to resolve the various difficulties faced by Indian workers in the Gulf," Ravi said.

"I will also take up with the civil aviation ministry the problems faced by our workers in the Gulf in terms of prohibitive cost of air travel between India and the Gulf to find a suitable solution," he told reporters.

The 68-year-old minister said the demand for voting rights from non-resident Indians was a genuine one, as was stated by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in his inaugural speech at this year's Pravasi Bharatiya Divas in Hyderabad, Jan 7-9.

"Action has already been initiated in this direction. Soon we will coordinate with the law ministry to work out the modalities and bring this matter before the union cabinet," Ravi said.

Stating that the strength of Indian diaspora was 25 million in 110 countries, Ravi said the overseas Indian community represented a significant force today and his ministry's efforts would be to serve as their friend and guide.

He said he would constantly hold interactive meetings with the overseas Indian community and associations to not only understand their concerns and areas of interest, but also resolve them to the best of his ability.

Ravi referred to the department set up in his home state Kerala to exclusively deal with the Indian diaspora and said he would also interact closely with other state governments to establish similar offices.

"The United Progressive Alliance government is also committed to take forward the overseas citizenship of India scheme that was launched recently and take steps to ensure that it is implemented effectively," he said.

Ravi has replaced Oscar Fernandes who had to be hurriedly inducted last year to oversee preparations for India's annual event to connect with its vast diaspora - the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas.

Jagdish Tytler, the first to take charge of the ministry that was created for the first time by Manmohan Singh in May 2005, had to resign abruptly last year after he was linked to the 1984 anti-Sikh riots in the national capital.

Ravi started his political career as founder president of the party's students' wing in the Kerala Students Union in the early 1960s. He went on to become one of the youngest members of the Congress party's powerful working committee in the 1970s.

First Published: Jan 30, 2006 17:39 IST