Every year government of Kerala through their annual budget, spends a huge amount of money for the welfare of non-resident Malayalis who are working abroad, especially middle east.
The major focus is to facilitate and support the Indians coming from poor backgrounds in case of emergency like arranging return air ticket when they are left stranded, health bills in emergencies, transporting the dead bodies of Indian citizens etc. Non-resident Keralaites Affairs dept (Norka) was formed on 6 December 1996 to redress the grievances of Non-Resident Keralites and has more than 100 employees who are extensively traveling to foreign destinations. The reason behind this is not quite known and seems like a closely kept secret or a job perk on the pretext of study but has been of no consequence or help for the people of Kerala.
But Norka is not providing any help to those who are really needy, like Indian maids, laborers, those who are ill-treated and tortured. Most of such cases are addressed by small local NRI associations who are doing all the work. A case in point was when many unemployed youth who were cheated in a visa racket do not get any assistance from Norka.
So the question arises whether such an organization which is not performing the job it was supposed to needed at all? The organisation is run on such a huge expenditure. It is a drain on tax payers’ money. Most of the board directors are highly wealthy NRIs. They don’t relate to the real issue faced by poor Malayalis living abroad. In such a scenario, in the middle east itself, lots of Malayali associations with 50-100 members comprising of friends and acquaintances from their native place have stood up and offered a helping hand to fellow Indians in testing times.
Couple of days back, the new CM of Kerala Pinarayi Vijayan criticized the Norka officials for delaying processes. In the beginning of 2015, UAE government sent a proposal to Norka stating that they wanted to invest and open an office in Trivandrum for better communication and welfare of those Malayalis working in UAE. Ironically, Norka officials sat on the file for over a year and did not take any action. This led to the Kerala CM recently lambasting the Norka.
In another incident, from south part of Kerala, Pathanapuram, more than 50 individuals in 2013 formed Pathnapuram Pravasi Association in Dubai. Their primary objective was to lend a helping hand to the poor and needy from Kerala. This is supposed to be the reason why Norka was set up but it has not been performing its duties. People who had a very bad experience with Norka officials approached PPA on several occasions. The secretary of the association Dileep told Narada News : “Many people approach us for help and we try to do whatever we can for our fellow Indians when they find themselves in a difficult situation. We have collected donations in the past to rehabilitate those who were brought to the middle east on the pretext of lucrative jobs but ultimately ended up being cheated. We also rescued Indian women from prostitution racket and arranged for their travel back to their native place and start a new life. In the recent past when a Malayali man was murdered, we arranged for his dead body to be taken on flight to reach his family back home. 2013 to today, most of the social work done by the association has been widely published in gulf media.”
Dileep described to us the biased and insensitive nature of the Norka. He stated that when they were suggested by members in early 2016 to register the association with Norka in Trivandrum, PPA submitted the required documents at Norka office. Norka did due diligence and found out about the social work done by PPA. After a month, they got a certificate from Norka stating they were recognized by the body. But interestingly, two months later, another group approached Norka office “with political influence and money power” to manipulate facts. They got Norka to derecognise PPA after it had verified the PPA to be the genuine association. The question is what changed in these two months when Norka was satisfied after its study of PPA but suddenly changed its stance.
Ajeeth Babu, another NRI who returned to his native place in Kerala to settle down approached Norka for a loan to start a new business. But the response he got was shocking and his application was rejected. He told Narada News: “I did not grease anyone’s palms that is the reason why I did not get the loan approved.”
The lackadaisical approach and obscure nature of Norka raises suspicion in the mind as to what its agenda and role is in the lives of NRI Malayalis for whose welfare it was set up. However, Norka has been a big let down for Malayalees.