Special budgetary support sought for NRI welfare fund

February 20th, 2008 - 9:40 pm ICT by admin  

New Delhi, Feb 20 (IANS) The ministry of overseas Indian affairs (MOIA) has sought a special budgetary allocation for setting up a welfare fund for training workers for overseas jobs, providing humanitarian aid when they are in trouble at their work places and helping them to resettle on their return. According to MOIA sources, the ministry has sought an allocation of Rs.2.15 billion ($53.47 million) in the union budget, to be presented in parliament Feb 29, of which a sizeable amount would be kept for the Overseas Workers Welfare Fund (OWWF).

Last year’s budgetary allocation for the ministry was Rs.500 million.

“The proposal for the OWWF envisages a one-time budgetary support of Rs.150 crore (Rs.1.5 billion) as corpus contribution for the fund,” Overseas Indian Affairs Minister Vayalar Ravi has said in a letter to Finance Minister P. Chidambaram.

“The contribution of overseas workers based in the Gulf and elsewhere, in terms of repatriation of their earnings back home being to the tune of US $26 billion, is well known and much appreciated,” Ravi said in the letter.

Pointing out that the government had been providing various facilities and concessions to the exporters for their contribution to the Indian economy, Ravi said: “Precious little has been done for the overseas Indian workers.”

The minister urged the finance minister to provide the required allocation to operationalise the OWWF in the financial year 2008-09.

The MOIA had earlier suggested that major insurance companies could be roped in to contribute to the welfare fund, to which even NRI workers also could chip in with a small amount - either as a one time payment or an annual one.

It is estimated that every year about 600,000 workers - semi-skilled and unskilled - travel to the Gulf region in search of job opportunities. Under the current regulations, each such worker is charged Rs.200 for an emigration clearance stamp on the passports.

The ministry had proposed that this fee be enhanced to Rs.300, of which Rs.100 will be the workers’ contribution towards the welfare fund.

“The welfare fund is meant to build confidence among the workers - who have made large foreign exchange remittances - to signal to them that they will be looked after while they are abroad and also when they return to their homeland,” Ravi told IANS here Wednesday.

There are around five million Indian workers in the Middle East and the Gulf region itself and they contribute around 50 percent of the total annual remittances of $25 billion sent by overseas Indians.

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