At a session on "Indians and the Gulf: Gulf Session" held on the third and concluding day of the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD) 2010, the annual conclave of the Indian diaspora here, prominent members of the Indian community in the region voiced their problems and suggestions in the presence of three ministers - Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs Vayalar Ravi, Minister of State for External Affairs Shashi Tharoor and Minister of State for Railways E. Ahamed.
United Arab Emirates (UAE) based EMKE Group's managing director Yusuff Ali M.A. set the tone by suggesting that the government hold the next edition of mini-PBD - the smaller version of PBD that is held abroad every year - in the Gulf. "Let the government decide on the venue and we Indians in the Gulf will fully help in its organisation," he said. He also requested the government to take overseas Indians into consideration in the government's divestment process.
Chairman and managing director of Qatar’s Behzad Group of Companies C.K. Menon said that Gulf nations were sitting on huge investible funds and were looking to put this money in emerging economies. "But they want to invest this money in projects that are Sharia-friendly," Menon said.
"Many countries in the West have already modified their financial systems in such a way that these are Sharia-friendly. In India too, such a system needs to be created," he added.
Managing director of Oman’s Galfar Engineering and Contracting Mohamed Ali dwelt on the issue of illegal Indian workers in the Gulf and their plight. "They land up there through illegal recruiting agents in India and then find that were not getting what they had gone there for. So, they illegally seek work in some other companies and end up getting virtually enslaved," Ali said.
"We need to have a system from the Indian end that will require every worker going abroad to report to the Indian missions there," he said. Director of the UAE’s ETA Ascon & Star Group Syed M. Salahuddin sought the government’s help in setting up better schools for Indian students in the Gulf.
"Out there education is nothing but a business. We need to have schools that charge low fees and impart good education. Maybe the government can help create a fund from which salaries of teachers can be paid," he suggested.
President of Saudi Arabia's Pravasi Rehabilitation Centre K.M. Naushad requested the government to look into the possibility of a bilateral pact with the Saudi government that covered all aspects of labour so that problems of Indian labourers are mitigated. "Also, attestation of employment contracts by Indian missions must be made mandatory," he added.
Earlier, addressing the gathering, Ahamed said that India should formulate its foreign policy with the Gulf countries keeping the Indians there in mind.
On his part, Tharoor said that India would not take Gulf countries for granted. "Precisely because we have no problems in our ties with the Gulf, we should not let it slip into complacency," he said.
Significantly, of the six concurrent sessions held Friday, only the Gulf session was region-specific, the others being thematic.
There are five million expatriate Indians living in six Gulf nations.