Pinarayi Vijayan and his promises to Gulf-returnee Keralite migrants
Pinarayi, might have tickled the 15,000-highly-thrilled Keralites, who gathered in the Amphitheater to hear their strongman�s speech. Unfortunately, the chief minister�s speech can be seen only as a cliched crowd-puller one, which is far from reality, especially when migrants� rights violations are at its high time due to economic conditions.
A plan to support to Gulf-returnee Keralite migrant by paying him salary at least for six months till he gets a job, legal assistance for jailed Keralites in Gulf, job portal, immediate monetary assistance for the repatriation of ailing Keralite migrants, assistance for those who working on repatriation of mortal remains…
These were the welfare measures announced by Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) during his first official visit on Friday night at Dubai Media City Amphitheater.
Pinarayi, might have tickled the 15,000-highly-thrilled Keralites, who gathered in the Amphitheater to hear their strongman’s speech.
Unfortunately, the chief minister’s speech can be seen only as a cliched crowd-puller one, which is far from reality, especially when migrants’ rights violations are at its high time due to economic conditions.
According to latest available statistics there are more than 2.5 million Keralites living outside the country (90 per cent in Gulf Cooperation Council countries) contribute 40 per cent of Kerala’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
However, the global oil price crisis in GCC countries leading to job loss has not only shivers down the spine of Kerala’s Finance Minister Dr Thomas Issac but also to the families of Keralite gulf workers.
Other than the Richie Rich who feature in Forbes List, 90 per cent the workers are in fear of losing job.
On daily basis, dozens of fresh cases of human trafficking women, non-payment of salaries, detention of passport, and lack of shelter, food and water are being reported in GCC countries.
It is in this situation, where migrant workers would expect concrete solutions other than meagre assurances from a chief minister like Pinarayi.
A plan to support to Gulf-returnee Keralite migrant with salary at least for six months till he gets a job is a good move, but will the state government be able to afford it.
This is when the state finance minister says that his coffers are almost empty and he is struggling to pay salaries due to demonetization and other factors.
When Keralite workers were returned empty-handed from Saudi Arabia’s OGER Company, until media intervention, they were left in lurch.
Workers’ who returned to New Delhi after giving power of attorney to Indian embassy in Saudi for their pending salaries, they were stranded till media intervention prompted the Pinarayi government to provide free air ticket for them to fly back home.
It should not be forgotten that it is the same government which created tensions with the central government for not allowing their state minister KT Jaleel to fly to Saudi when the same workers were stranded.
Now a days, the number of Keralites returning home from GCC is not low at all. According to migration experts, current economic conditions is forcing migrants to return.
Now, the next assurance of providing legal assistance for jailed Keralites in Gulf. It is a feel good move.
However, such a kind of system is available in all mission houses in the GCC countries, even though it fails sometime to help the migrants. The ground reality is the legal advisors show less interest in taking up jailed cases.
Legal advisors, mainly, show interest in attending road traffic accident cases from which they can benefit through commission of Blood Money compensations.
Now, the job portal. When the central government monitored e-Migrate system is in place, do we need a separate job portal.
Already, the Non-Resident Kerala Affairs (NORKA), which is chaired by Pinarayi as Chief Minister, is having special job notifications and advisories online.
In the assistance for those who working on repatriation of mortal remains, the current practice is that mission houses in coordination with social organisations and social workers, body repatriation is done.
Embassies bear the repatriation costs from Indian Community Welfare Fund (ICWF) if the employer is reluctant to afford the same.
Now, providing help to repatriate ailing Keralite workers, a lot of technical and procedural difficulties are there.
Majority of the GCC countries provide health insurance for workers. And if the sponsor is reluctant to provide the same, the social workers take up the responsibility.
Other than providing help in the host country, what Pinarayi could do is that he can make sure that every Keralite who boards the flight in search of a job can be provided a health insurance coverage which can come to help when they fall sick in a foreign country.
Currently, due to lack of a health insurance coverage, social organisations in association with insurance companies, provide health insurance coverage for the workers.
Other than giving assurances, Pinarayi could have delivered concrete plans which ensure safe migration and better welfare system for Keralite workers.
It was sad to hear that he also, talked about air fares and NRI seat fee hike in Kerala educational institutions.
Air fare and NRI seat fee is being discussed every year periodically and no progressive change has occurred so far.
People say here it as a seasonal debate which occurs only when admissions happen and schools close here for summer vacation.
Other than air fare and NRI seat fee, there are a lot of other burning issues.
Unfortunately, NRI voting rights was also forgotten even while a Shamseer Valayil, a UAE-based NRI businessmen from Kerala, is fighting for the same in the Supreme Court for the last three years.
While, talking to this correspondent, Shamseer had said several times, that he is not getting any support from state governments and political parties.
Migration experts say that dozens of women trafficking cases are being reported due to lack of safety measures in India.
Recently, there were even reports in media that some of the airport officials in Kerala had links with traffickers.
Being a chief minister who also holds the portfolio of police, he can tighten the rules in Kerala ensuring safe migration.
In the welfare front, as the situation is worsening in GCC, Pinarayi can chalk out concrete plans for returnee migrants.
Majority of the Keralite migrants say that they feel stranded when the return ending the migration. This is where, Pinarayi can act.
He could plan special consideration for returnee migrants to set up small-scale units and businesses in Kerala.
While Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) guys get red carpet welcome, returnee migrants are running from pillar to post to find a fresh option to set up business or make a living in home country.
India became the 10th largest recipient of foreign direct investment in 2015 in the world, grossing $44 billion following a series of reforms by the government, as per the latest World Investment Report released by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).
Interestingly, the NRI remittance in 2015, was $70 billion, almost double of the FDI.
It should not be forgotten that Kerala has a debt of around Rs1.35 trillion ($20 billion) and remittances have helped in repayment till now.
Millions of job-seekers have migrated from Kerala to the Gulf over the last 50 years. Still, they are in the same condition. They are exploited, betrayed, and returned empty handed. Only difference is that they fly in a flight other than dhow like in the past.
Nothing much has progressed in their welfare front even though their remittances have been key in the state’s development
Without them, the state’s Rs86,180 per capita income for 2014 would have been just Rs63,491, according to Centre for Development Studies.
The government has utilised this money well, building robust healthcare and educational infrastructure. Now, it is time for the state government to initiate some concrete steps.
Where the Chief Minister stayed in UAE, who was his host and which camp he visited is not a matter of concern for migrants.
Assurances can cheer the spectators, but it is not what is expected from Pinarayi, who represents the working class party.
Concrete actions are needed and it is high time now. Or else people may say that the working-class chief minister also failed to see their real issues.