1 million Covid-hit Indians who flew home now back in UAE

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Dubai - There are some 150,000 who still haven’t returned to the UAE.


Suneeti Ahuja Kohli

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Published: Thu 21 Jan 2021, 9:24 PM

Nearly 1.3 million non-resident Indians (NRIs) flew from the UAE to India since the start of Vande Bharat flights on May 7 last year. Of these, 1.15 million NRIs have already returned to the Emirates, said V. Muraleedharan, India’s Minister of State for External Affairs and Parliamentary Affairs, during the launch of PBSK app in Dubai on Thursday.

“There are some 150,000 who still haven’t returned to the UAE,” he said.

The minister added that he is aware of the issue of pending ICA approvals for some of non-resident Indians wanting to return to the UAE. “We understand that some of the NRIs are still in India pending ICA approval. We have raised this issue and the authorities would look into it,” added the minister.

The Covid-19 pandemic has forced severe economic changes upon businesses and made many people redundant. The worst hit among these have been blue-collar workers. Since the UAE is home to the largest Indian expat diaspora in the world, redundancies and paycuts have reportedly had a direct impact on India as well.

The remittances, which have played a vital role in the development of families and communities in India, for one, have been significantly affected. It has also led to reverse migration of blue-collared labour to India at a time when jobs are scare there too. “This is another issue that is being carefully attended to by the state and central governments in the country. The Narendra Modi government has instructed all concerned states to design programmes to help workers who are returning from abroad including preparing database of workers to re-employ them as per their skills near to their place under the programme Skilled Workers Arrival Database for Employment Support (SWADES),” said Muraleedharan.

The Indian government is also putting in place safeguards to protect the interest of workers looking to move to other countries. Low-skilled workers, for instance, can now move to other countries only though authorised agents. This reduces their chances of getting duped by scrupulous agents.

On e-voting rights for non-resident Indians, the minister said the Modi government is supportive of the idea but it is up to the Election Commission of India to decide upon the process and its implementation.

New app to help workers avoid fake job offers

The welfare centre for Indian citizens in the UAE — Pravasi Bhartiya Sahayeta Kendra (PBSK) — receives an average of 100 calls and 25 e-mails a day, said Dr Aman Puri, Consul-General of India in Dubai. The centre, which was shifted to the Counsulate-General of India (CGI) premises in Bur Dubai from its office in JLT on November 1 last year, has been a primary source of assistance and guidance for blue-collar workers in distress.

On Thursday, the CGI introduced the PBSK app, which was launched by V. Muraleedharan, India’s Minister of State for External Affairs and Parliamentary Affairs.

The app aims to make the centre more accessible to Indian workers in need. It is available in five languages: Hindi, Malayalam, Tamil, Telegu, and English. “The three main objectives of launching this app are to provide a single window of contact to people, enhance engagement with the Indian community in the UAE, and generate awareness,” said Dr Puri.

The app will also be of service to users outside the UAE by helping them verify any job offers that have seemingly come from companies based in the emirates.

Several people often get duped by ‘fake’ job offers from the Gulf. This service aims to protect user interest and avoid just mishaps.

The CGI has also inaugurated an ‘upskilling & training centre’ for Indian blue collared workers, which will teach basic English, Arabic and computer skills. “The centre has 100 workers enrolled as of now and aims to scale up its reach to a wider community in coming months,” said Dr Puri.


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