Interview of the month

Mr Oommen Chandy
Chief Minister, Kerala

“NRI remittance backbone of state economy”

On the sidelines of the PBD 2013, Chief Minister, Kerala spoke to Editor Sayantan Chakravarty

Chief Minister, Kerala, Mr Oommen Chandy

On NRI remittances…
As we all know, India is one of the topmost countries in the world in receiving remittances from its nationals abroad. India received more than USD 65 million in foreign remittances in 2011, which represents 4.2 per cent of India’s GDP. It is worthwhile to point out that out of this, the maximum remittance was from the expatriate population of Kerala. In 2011, the remittance of NRI population in Kerala was estimated at more than Rs 55,000 crore, constituting more than 22 per cent of the state domestic product. This huge NRI remittance is the backbone of the state’s economy for the last three to four decades.

On welfare measures…
Considering that the majority of the NRKs are in the unskilled and semi-skilled workers category, especially in the Gulf countries, Government of Kerala has initiated a number of welfare measures for the benefit of the expatriate population of the State. A separate department, namely the Non Resident Keralites Affairs Department (NORKA) was constituted in 1996, a first in India, to bestow special attention to the various issues of the NRKs. Following this, a field implementation agency, the NORKA ROOTS, was also created in 2002, for taking up various welfare measures for the NRKs of the state.
It is worthwhile to point out that the state of Kerala has already initiated major welfare and social security schemes for the NRKs like the Pravasi Kshema Nidhi and Pravasi Pension and accident insurance coverage up to Rs 2 lakh. These efforts are complementing the efforts of the MOIA. In addition many other welfare schemes like Santhwana and Chairman’s Fund are also being implemented for the benefit of the poorer section of returned NRKs and their family members. Further a rehabilitation programme for returnees for their livelihood is also being launched shortly. During the recent NDC meeting, I have suggested formulating suitable centrally sponsored scheme to supplement the efforts of the state for rehabilitation of returning migrans. I expect a positive reponse from the Planning Commission. It is hoped that these steps will help the NRKs to a great extent.

On major concerns…
Even though the state Government is implementing many welfare schemes for the NRKs, there are many issues of concern still existing in their countries of destination, especially in Gulf countries which need to be addressed by the Union Government. The issues of lack of job security, reasonable living conditions and legal protection for the unskilled and semi-skilled workers are a major area of concern.

On travel issues…
In order to deal with the serious travel issues from Gulf, State has taken steps to constitute a company called Air Kerala to operate budget airline services from Gulf to Kerala. Steps are on to implement the project with the participation of all NRKs of the state.
The major complaint of overseas Indians especially from Gulf sector is about the lethargic attitude of Air India, our national carrier. Very often flights are cancelled at the last moment without proper notice.

On investment opportunities…
We are really proud to have hosted the 11th edition of the PBD in Kochi. We have tremendous investment potential in IT and tourism sectors, in Ayurveda, high quality education. NORKA is the coordinating department for this.


February 2013

click here to enlarge