Norka, the Kerala government’s body for social security of expat workers from the south Indian state, and Norka Roots, its affiliated body, are expanding their reach among families of non-resident Keralites (NRKs) by setting up cells in each of the state’s 14 district headquarters.
The state government body is also encouraging expatriate associations in the UAE and other Gulf states to make use of Norka’s welfare fund which remains largely under-utilised due to lack of eligible applicants, said the convener of the United Democratic Front, the political coalition that now rules Kerala.
As per the audited report of Norka Roots from April 2010 to March 2011, only 35 per cent of the allotted welfare budget could be disbursed because not many potential beneficiaries are approaching the agency for help.
At present, Norka offices in Thiruvananthapuram, Kochi and Kozhikode meet the requirements of expatriates from the state’s 14 districts, said UDF convener P P Thankachan.
Thankachan, who was in Dubai to oversee the formation of a federation of 17 expatriate associations from Ernakulam, the commercial capital of Kerala, said Norka cells will be soon inaugurated in Thrissur, Kasargod and Kollam. Norka cells have been already formed in Kottayam and Kannur.
The Federation of Ernakulam District Pravasi Organisations (Fepco) has formed by bringing together several associations in the UAE to work for expatriate welfare programmes.
K B Ganesh Kumar, Kerala Minister for Sports and Cinema, recently urged leaders of more than 1,500 Keralite associations in the UAE to come together as a strong organisation that can make an impact in addressing the problems facing NRKs in the Gulf. Following the minister’s appeal, many expatriate community associations are thinking of coming together and the formation of Fepco is the first step in that direction.
According to Norka, the first body created by an Indian state government for the welfare of its expats, it has already handled nearly 70,000 complaints from Kerala expatriates.
Senior Norka officials say not many distressed Keralite expatriates are not coming forward to seek its help, preferring to seek legal and financial aid from community associations.
Says Ismail Rawther, Norka Roots director from the UAE: “We at Norka-Roots are keen to extend a helping hand to many distressed Keralites who are looking for financial or legal aid.”
Rawther has been going to various community associations urging them to enroll their members for the Pravasi Card, a Norka Roots identity card issued to overseas Keralites who have worked more than six months in a foreign country. Though the Pravasi Card yields some benefits for card holders, many Gulf expatriates are yet to apply for the card.
“Those who are in need of help should approach Norka Roots and the large number of Keralite expatriate associations in the Gulf should utilise the resources of the agency,” he said.
The agency is also keen that expat associations urge their members to enroll their members for a Norka insurance programme that will ensure pensions for retired overseas workers. Most of Norka’s beneficiaries are NRKs who have returned home for good.
(Home page image courtesy Shutterstock)