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RS representation for Gulf NRIs promised

The Government on Saturday promised Gulf NRIs to seriously consider their representation in the Rajya Sabha as it announced several sops for them.

india Updated: Jan 11, 2004 11:17 IST

The Government on Saturday promised Gulf NRIs to seriously consider their representation in the Rajya Sabha as it announced several sops for them at the Pravasi Bharatiya Diwas.

Responding to grievances and fervent pleas of the vibrant Gulf NRI community on a range of issues, Minister of State for External Affairs Vinod Khanna announced to fix quota for them in educational institutions in India and issue them social security cards.

Seeking to address their concerns the Minister assured them to look into their demand for a pension scheme soon.

He also said that the DPS group of institutions is going to start a high school in Dubai on January 18.

"We are 3.5 million NRIs in the gulf, 50 billion of the 100 billion dollar forex reserves comes from us... we are the single largest expatriate NRI community worldwide... could we then suggest one representative from the Gulf NRI's in the Rajya Sabha?" asked an NRI raising one of the main concerns of the community.

Demands for cheaper air fare, better educational facilities, an identity card, and the concerns over their "exploitation" in the Gulf, visa attestation centres at the states dominated the interactive session.

This was the only diaspora community which had an entire session devoted exclusively to them.

During the discussions, a rather flippant remark by Secretary to the Government of India PD Shenoy raised hackles. Delegates were angered when Shenoy said, "We have now made a Keralite Thulasidas as the chief of Air-India. Please address your queries to him. I am sure he will try and help you out."

One zipped, "Why do you talk of a region or state. We are an NRI family. What can we do if a Keralite is head of Air-India?"

"You take us lightly always," shot back another.

The Govt can hardly afford to take lightly a community which forms the single largest interest group and gives back the highest foreign remittance to its country of origin. Most of them also hold an Indian citizenship despite being in the Gulf.

Vinod Khanna assuaged many of the grievances with his sincere assertion that the very fact that a special session on Gulf NRIs had been introduced this year showed the Govt was keen to discuss and exchange ideas with the community.

It touched a chord with the audience when the Minister said to a participant, "You can write to me directly."

First Published: Jan 11, 2004 00:00 IST