UAE Indian expat alert: NRI minister 'kills' Air India, 'opens' Sharjah cemetery

5 key statements Vyalar Ravi made in UAE that will affect NRIs here

The Minister of Overseas Indian Affairs is in the UAE and this year again he has promised Indians here that a regional Indian diaspora event will be held in Dubai next year. Last year, too, the minister had promised the same but the venue was shifted to Maldives. Next year’s event, he reiterated, could be held in Dubai.

Commenting on issues related to Air India Vayalar Ravi said, he had taken up the issue with the aviation minister in India but also wondered what the new minister could do what he himself had failed to achieve as the Minister of Aviation. Ravi was in charge of the ministry of aviation in 2011 following the resignation of Praful Patel.
 
Addressing Indians he said he has made himself approachable anytime of the day all seven days a week. “I even have a notepad placed in every corner of the house to note down points from any phone call I might receive during non-office hours,” the minister said.
Problems of NRIs aside the minister also promised that work on the free crematorium being built by the Indian Association in Sharjah is nearing completion.
 
Dubai to be the venue of next year’s major NRI event
 
The 2013 Regional Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, a major conclave of Indian Diaspora living abroad will be held in the Middle East, and Dubai could possibly be the destination of choice, the Minister of Overseas Indian Affairs Vayalar Ravi has revealed.
 
Every year India celebrates January 9 as Pravasi Bharatiya Divas to mark the contribution of the overseas Indian community to the development of India. The day commemorates the arrival of Mahatma Gandhi in India from South Africa.
 
The 11th edition of the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD) will be held in Kochi, Kerala, from January 7-9, 2013.
 
“This year’s event will be scheduled in the Gulf and Dubai will be the posy possible destination,” the minister revealed yesterday.
 
Regional Pravasi Bharatiya Divas’ are organised by the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs, Government of India in collaboration with the host Government, the concerned Indian Mission and organisations catering to the needs of the Indian diaspora.
 
The motivation behind the regional event is to provide an opportunity for all those who are unable to attend the annual event held in India.
The first regional event was held in New York in 2007 followed by Singapore in 2008. This year it was scheduled to be held in Dubai but the event was finally moved to Mauritius.
 
How to handle the Air India crisis
 
To be precise it could just be a hopeless case. Ravi washed his hands off the Air India crisis. “I have tried my best. Many times in the past when I was incharge of the ministry and even now as someone who is concerned about the plight of Indians living abroad. But there is nothing much I can do. The problems are within the airline,” said Ravi.
 
Indian expats living in the Gulf have launched a series of campaigns against Air India’s attitude with regard to its operations to and from the region.
Keralites travelling to India from the Gulf had live with almost 200 odd cancelled flights during the past four months alone. In a recent incident an Air India Express pilot even accused irritated passengers from Abu Dhabi of threatening to hijack the flight that had landed at the wrong airport and delayed by over fifteen hours.
 
Last week the minister said he had met his successor Ajit Singh, who is currently in charge of the Aviation Ministry in India to discuss problems faced by travellers from the region. The aviation minister is said to have promised to look into the issue and come up with practical solutions.
 
Simultaneously there are efforts being made to increase the frequency of private Indian airlines operating to the Gulf.
 
Indian cemetery in Sharjah
 
Work on an Indian Community crematorium being built in Sharjah is 80 per cent complete and could become operational by early next year.
 
The minister for Overseas Indian Affairs Vayalar Ravi handed over a cheque for Dh500,000 to the Indian Association in Sharjah that is in charge of building the project.
 
The government of India is funding 50 per cent of the Dh6.5 million crematorium, located opposite the Sharjah Cement factory near Al Saja. The crematorium is being built on 8.3 acres of land donated by His Highness Dr Shaikh Sultan Bin Mohammad Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah.
 
The facility is mainly meant for non-Muslim and non Christian Indians. The facility in Sharjah will be almost free, except for a service fee that would be charged from those who can afford the payment.
 
Ravi who visited the facility to inspect the progress of the ongoing work said, the first phase would become operational by next year. “The facility will be equipped to handle about 1500 dead bodies in a year,” he said.
 
Prominent Indian community members have also contributed for the fund to set up the crematorium.
 
“The Gurudwara committee has donated Dh325,000, we have received Dh100,000 each from the Indian Community Welfare Committee, M A
Yousuf Ali of Emke Lulu Group and from S P Singh Oberoi,” said a senior official from the Indian Association in Sharjah.
 
“We are planning to install latest machines that would be powered by gas. In fact our plan is to install two machines. But at present we can only afford one. The second machine will be installed on a later date,” he added.
 
While Muslims have a separate burial place, a separate burial ground meant for Christians is under development. “The land was originally at our disposal. But now the Church has taken over and is developing it. They are facing some shortage of funds,” he added.
 
Contact me anytime
 
The Indian minister for NRI affairs says he has made himself available for the welfare of Indians abroad and is even willing to perform like a call centre.
 
“I am making myself available seven days a week and 24 hours a day. Most prominent officials in the Gulf, including the representatives of communities and Ambassadors and senior Consulate officials have my number and they are welcome to call me anytime,” the minister said yesterday. He was addressing the public at the Sharjah Indian Association in the UAE as part of his whirlwind tour across the Gulf countries.
 
“I even have a notepad in all my rooms specifically meant to take down complaints from the NRIs,” he added.
 
The minister is visiting Kuwait, UAE, Oman, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain as part of his tour. In the UAE he is also scheduled to meet the UAE Labour Minister Saqr Ghobash at Abu Dhabi. In Oman he is expected to meet Manpower Minister Abdullah Bin Nasser Bin Abdullah Al Bakri, Justice Minister Abdulmalik Bin Abdullah bin Ali al Khalili, and Police and Customs Inspector General Lt. Gen. Hassan Bin Mohsin Bin Salim al Shraiqi.
 
How to tackle criticisms on social media
 
The minister for overseas Indian Affairs has an interesting solution on how to handle criticism on social media. “Just ignore it.”
 
He was responding to increasing criticisms against him and his ministry being posted on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter.
 
The posts mostly accuse him of doing nothing for the NRIs. “Indians are struggling here and he is more keen on building crematoriums; Rotten eggs should he thrown on him when he next visits the gulf,” English translation of some of the posts on social networking sites originally in Malayalam reads.

The minister last night had a simple reaction to these developments. “Malayalis are known for their acute political knowledge. It is common for them to be always critical,” the minister said.

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