Kochi, Jan 8: Inaugurating the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas here on Tuesday, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh spoke about a "surge of expectation" from an increasingly empowered and articulate public and promised to turn any setback into an opportunity. The NRI community has been waiting and expecting some kind of reforms and changes in the government attitude to them and it is yet to be granted.
The PM's promises did not resonate with the NRI (non-resident Indians) community as there were no specifics to woo the Indians back to the motherland.
Singh told the Indian diaspora that despite an impressive economic performance and change on an enormous scale in the past two decades, the country faced persisting challenges of poverty, equity, sustainability and opportunity. In spite of this, he wanted the NRIs to come to India and invest in the country.
According to World Bank figures, India has been maintaining the top position among countries obtaining remittance for the past four years. The Indian diaspora of 25 million sent about $ 63.7 billion as remittance in 2011 and $70 billion in 2012, as per Reserve Bank of India estimates.
Instead of rhetoric, the Prime Minister should have focused on these issues:
A few decades ago, Keralites accounted for 80 per cent of the Indian expatriates in the Gulf. But this has come down to 55-60 per cent. To stem further decline and increase the number, there is a need for skill development programmes to cater to the Gulf job market.
There is a demand to have Malayalam speaking officials at the Gulf countries as the staff strength in Indian embassies is inadequate to meet the demands of the NRIs.
There was a need to promote new and emerging destinations to avoid overcrowding in certain labour markets and to weed out unscrupulous and unauthorised recruitment agencies.
Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy claimed that the biggest achievement of the state government was providing NRKs (non resident Keralites) with voting rights. However, many NRKs felt that giving voting right at the local self-government level was meaningless unless provision was made for online voting. They demanded online voting rights.
The NRIs are also worried about the lack of facilities for higher education for their children. Hence, there was a demand for reservation of five per cent seats in professional courses.
With the threat of repatriation across the Gulf countries, there was a need for policy to support and equip the returning population. A survey had found that just five per cent of NRKs were in a position to support themselves on their return.
Another major issue raised by the NRIs was the limit imposed on gold NRIs can bring when they visit the country.
A US-based organisation of NRIs from Punjab has demanded judicial commission or fast track courts to resolve the property or matrimonial disputes related to the community in a certain time frame.
"Most of the Overseas Punjabi Community members are running from post to pillar in their home state Punjab to resolve their property and matrimonial disputes. But their issues and concern are not being resolved in the time frame of work," was the concern of Satnam Singh Chahal, President of North American Punjabi Association.
"We demand that the state government should designate fast track courts or set up a judicial commission to resolve the property disputes and matrimonial issues, related to NRIs, in a minimum period of time," said Chahal.
Chahal asked the government to assure overseas Punjabis about their property and life security during their visit to Punjab. This will help to attract more NRIs to invest in the state, he felt.