Three new universities to be set up in India for NRIs

October 11th, 2008 - 1:39 pm ICT by IANS  

Singapore, Oct 11 (IANS) India plans to set up three new universities for Non Resident Indians and Persons of Indian Origin, Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs Vayalar Ravi said Saturday. The three new universities will be along the same lines as another university, also for NRIs and PIOs, that is being set up in Bangalore, Ravi told journalists.

The minister is in Singapore to attend a conference of non-resident Indians, the mini-Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, being held in the city state.

The NRI university in Bangalore, which will begin functioning from the 2010 academic year, will be run by the privately-run Manipal University and offer courses in engineering, medicine and the humanities. Fifty percent of the seats are reserved for children of NRIs and PIOs.

Asked if land for the university had been acquired in the context of the problems faced by the Tatas in Singur, the minister quipped: “Singur is not India. As soon as the Tatas decided to withdraw from Singur, at least six states immediately offered to host the Tata small car project. That is the real India.”

The Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs has begun processing the proposal for setting up the three new universities. “We expect the clearance from the ministries of human resource development and home, and cabinet approval to take about a year,” Ravi said.

Ramdas Pai, chairman of the Manipal education and medical group which runs a string of private colleges in Karnataka, said 75 acres of land has been acquired near the new Bangalore airport for the greenfield university project.

The overseas Indian affairs ministry has increased the number of scholarships for children of NRIs and PIOs to 120 since last year.

“When we think of NRIs we think they are all affluent, why would they need scholarships?” said Ravi. “But there are many NRIs and PIOs who are poor and cannot afford to send their children for higher studies. We want to offer the scholarships and educational opportunities to them.”

Also on the cards are amendments to the Immigrants Act in order to tighten regulations governing recruiting agents in India who in many instances end up duping poor migrant workers by charging them large sums of money for work overseas.

The penalty for recruiting agents who cheat workers will be raised to five years in jail, Ravi said. “Penalties for defaulters will be stringent. The rules will be changed so that if we receive any complaint the agent will be suspended, an FIR filed and then enquiries held.”

There are around 2,000 recruiting agents in India who every year send millions of low-skilled workers such as construction labour abroad. In many instances, unscrupulous agents cheat the workers who find themselves stranded on foreign soil with no resources to return or find alternative work.

The government has also set up an India Development Foundation of Overseas Indians which would help channel contributions that NRIs would like to send home for specific development projects.

The cabinet has last week approved in principle the setting up of the foundation, the minister said.

NRIs wishing to send money for philanthrophic reasons can rest assured that their funds will be used for whatever purpose they desire and the ministry would help identify local non-governmental organisations to carry out the activities, he said.

“This could be a rural development project in their village back in India, or project for the empowerment of women. The foundation will assure that the money they send is used wisely and there is some accountability,” Ravi said.

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