Large-scale migration of Malayalis to foreign countries in general and the Gulf region in particular is an acknowledged fact. Their remittances have played a significant role in the growth of Kerala’s economy. In a state of 32 million, one out of six employed Keralite now works overseas. Large numbers of them work in the construction field. High literacy rate enables Keralites to secure white collar jobs. Foreign remittances augment the state’s economic output by nearly 25 percent. Families belonging to Pathanamthitta and Thrissur districts have on an average one member from each household as a non-resident Keralite.
NORKA, the Non Resident Keralites Affairs Department was set up by the Government of Kerala in 1996, with the primary objective of ensuring the well-being of Non Resident Keralites. Norka-Roots was formed in 2002 as a Private Limited company under the Norka Department. It became a public limited company in 2008 and assists in the redressal of non resident Keralites’ grievances and safeguards their rights.
The Government of Kerala is deeply concerned about the labour problems in Saudi Arabia, Sultanate of Oman, Qatar and other countries. The condition of those who have worked there for years, yet forced to return without any benefits is very pitiable. Most of them are struggling to lead a reasonably good life in their home land. The Government has accorded the highest priority to their rehabilitation package NDPREM (Norka Department Project for Returned Emigrants). Under this scheme, Norka Roots has entered into an MoU with Canara Bank, SBT, SBI, South Indian Bank and Union Bank. Loans are sanctioned by the banks as per their norms and conditions in the MoU. Capital subsidy of 15% of the project cost, subject to a maximum of Rs. 20 lakhs and interest subsidy of 3% for the first 4 years will be given to those beneficiaries who are regular in payment. In case of default, the benefit can be availed only if the beneficiaries clear off his/her dues. During this short period of the current Government, 4520 returnees have applied under the scheme and 4110 have been selected. This year, orientation and training camps are conducted prior to screening/selection to boost the managerial capabilities of the entrepreneurs.
Financial assistance is provided to NRKs who have returned back after at least 2 years of working abroad and whose annual income is below Rs. 1,00,000. Assistance is provided for medical treatment of the returnee or his closest relatives (up to Rs. 50,000), for funeral expenses (up to Rs. 1,00,000), for marriage assistance of daughters (Rs. 15,000) and to buy wheelchair/crutches (Rs. 10,000). Under this scheme, which started in 2005, the Government has spent Rs. 30 crores for total 9347 persons. Under the present Government an amount or Rs. 1,70,00,000 has already been sanctioned.
It is a financial aid for bringing the dead bodies of NRK’s from foreign countries to the homeland. Under the scheme, financial assistance is provided up to a maximum of Rs.50000 in case of death abroad and up to a maximum of Rs.15000 for death within India. In order to avail this service, the ill-fated person should have been legally employed abroad for more than two years.
Repatriation of Keralites from Sudan
Following a telephone message that there were 35 Keralites held up in Juba in South Sudan, both the Embassy and the Deputy Secretary (States) was contacted by email and requested to initiate steps to repatriate them. In coordination with the Indian Air Force, a special flight was operated from Juba which would land at Thiruvananthapuram Airport at 02.45 AM on 15 July 2016. Arrangements were made to receive the expatriates and for their transport in coordination with Norka-Roots and KSRTC, apart from providing them with refreshments as well. In addition to the above repatriates, 32 persons from Tamilnadu also arrived here.
Saudi Labour Crisis
There was a labour issue in Saudi Arabia related to Oger Company Ltd. Hundreds of Indian conditions and the Citizens were trapped in Saudi Arabia without job and food. The Indian Mission was at work to repatriate them to India and help desks were set up at Delhi and Mumbai airports. On the directions of the Chief Minister, air tickets were provided from Delhi to Kerala and Rs. 2000 was provided to each of them for their pocket expenses.
The LDF Government knows the pulse of non resident Keralites very well and can be relied on to ensure their well being.