Gulf NRI issues dominate Pravasi meet

Delegates not satisfied with services of embassy staff

Grievances of the NRIs from the Gulf countries dominated the first day of the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, the 11th edition of which was inaugurated in Kochi on Monday.

Delegates from the Indian diaspora from the Gulf countries put forth their grievances before Union overseas affairs minister Vayalar Ravi, who chaired the seminar on “NRIs in Gulf”, explaining the problems they face in travelling during vacations and festive occasions.

Targeting the national carrier Air India and its budget arm Air India Express, the delegates said airlines are not only fleecing them, but also behave inhospitable towards them.

While foreign airlines stick to their schedule and ferry passengers on time, Air India and Air India Express miss their schedule by several hours, causing untold misery to passengers, delegates said.

“When the airlines land in unscheduled destinations for technical reasons, they do not provide alternative arrangements to take the passengers to their destinations,” said one delegate.

“This leads to clashes between passengers and crew as it happened in Thiruvananthapuram recently. Passengers cannot be blamed for taking extreme forms of protests in such instances.”  Many delegates from north India, especially from Punjab, demanded more Air India Express services to the north Indian destinations.

Delegates also revealed their dissatisfaction over embassy services in the Gulf, which they say can be humane especially towards workers.

As jobs dry up in many foreign destinations due to efforts by local governments in recruiting locals, diaspora representatives demanded substantial rehabilitation packages for the NRIs. They also demanded action from the government to release Indians languishing in foreign jails.

Admitting that only a few of their problems have been addressed so far, Vayalar Ravi assured them that their complaints will be presented to the Union cabinet and to the Prime Minister and steps will be taken to solve them.

Delivering the keynote address, Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said his government will go ahead with the Air Kerala project to ease the travel woes of Keralites working in the Gulf.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will formally inaugurate the event on Tuesday, while President Pranab Mukherjee will address the delegates on Wednesday.

The event will feature seminars attended by many persons of prominence including Planning Commission vice-chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Former New Zealand Governor General Anand Satyanad, External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid and Advisor to PM Sam Pitroda.

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