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'Varsity for overseas Indians soon'

The minister for overseas Indian affairs says a university to serve the needs of the PIO will be set up in 2 months.

india Updated: Jan 14, 2007 13:16 IST

A university to serve the long-felt needs of people of Indian origin around the world will be established within a couple of months, Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs Vayalar Ravi has said.

"The university should come up within two months," Ravi said.

Stating that the proposed university would be set up in a special economic zone, Ravi said: "It will have the status of a deemed university within the framework of Indian laws."

He said that fees for various courses in the proposed university would be affordable.

"It is a wrong notion that all overseas Indians are rich," he said. "They want quality and affordable education and we will provide this to them through the PIO university. The fees (for various courses) will not be high."

The minister said that all groundwork have been done and now all that was needed was for parliament to pass the Foreign University Bill that had been tabled in this regard.

Asked if any place has been identified for the university, he replied in the negative but added: "I want the university to come up at a place which has a good environment. I know for sure which places the university will not be set up... I don't want those flags and slogan-shouting...

"We don't want only foreigners. The university will have students from India too. We want the Indians to mix with the overseas students," he said.

The minister said that PIOs are also demanding reservation of seats for them in various medical colleges. "I have taken this up with the authorities concerned."

He added that a number of NRIs have shown interest in investing in educational institutes in India. "They are interested in setting up medical colleges. The only thing is that they want minimum returns and I have assured them that."

During the 90-minute interaction, the minister answered questions on a wide-range of issues concerning the estimated 25 million NRIs and PIOs spread across 110 countries.

On reduction of India-Gulf sector airfares: "Their (overseas Indian workers') main demand is the reduction of airfares. I think it is a genuine demand. They are asking why not allow the private airlines to fly from India. That way competition will come in.

"I think fares are the highest in the Gulf. But Air India thinks otherwise. It is a major problem."

On Indian workers in Gulf: "Another issue is the workers' problems with their salary. The unscrupulous agents there give (Indian workers going there) visit visas for 'name board' companies. Last year, 480,000 people went on visit visa, which is equivalent to (the number of workers given) emigration clearance by my ministry. They are made to sign some Arabic documents and they have to work according to the diktats of the sponsor.

"The MoU (memorandum of understanding signed between India and the United Arab Emirates in December) will take care of this. It will control, regulate and we will not agree to this kind of exploitation. And whatever they agreed - the salaries, the travel facilities, the living facilities, the medical facilities - will have to be implemented in toto..."

On workers' welfare fund: "Another thing I am proposing is workers' welfare fund... They (Indian workers in Gulf) send so much remittance. What can we do for them in return? I want a budgetary allocation for the welfare scheme.

"We have to work out the details. If somebody comes and works in India - mechanics, plumbers, fitters - they can start their own business through some institutionalised financing (courtesy the welfare fund). We can have a self-employment scheme."

On establishing Pravasi Bharatiya Kendra and NRI centres: "For Pravasi Bharatiya Kendra, land has been allotted in New Delhi and I have taken over. Now, I will concentrate on the construction and I have entrusted one officer for this.

"As for NRI centres, only one has been allotted and that is in Dubai. I have made it very clear - it (the NRI centre) is not a parallel to the consulate or the embassy. It will work under the ambassador."

On Pravasi Bhartiya Divas (PBD) and what importance the diaspora holds for the Indian government: "First, it (PBD) is an event to reach out to the Indian people overseas. This PBD gives them the opportunity of face-to-face interaction with the Indian political leadership.

"I want to make it very clear: don't think of it (PBD) as being held only for investment purposes. It is just one part of the whole affair. There are other issues like cultural links besides different issues (faced by Indian communities) in different countries."

On how the Indian government is going to tackle the ethnic conflicts involving Indian origin people in other countries: "(Former Indian origin prime minister of Fiji) Mahendra Chaudhry told me that 'We are Indians and very much Indian but we also want India to help us'. Ethnic problems are being created against Indian (origin) people by the political leadership in certain countries.

"India cannot make an armed intervention or anything like that in such cases. But what we can do is undertake diplomatic activity. We are not intervening, but going for diplomatic activity. India cannot ignore the plight of Indians abroad."

On Diaspora youth: "I am moving for doubling or increasing the number of scholarships (for diaspora youth issued by the ministry of overseas Indian affairs or MOIA) in consultation with the finance minister.

"I want to increase the frequency of the Know India Programme (the Diaspora youth orientation programme organised by MOIA) and also the number of young people participating in it."

First Published: Jan 14, 2007 12:51 IST