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25 June 2024

Keralites stranded in Gulf jails to receive legal aid

Ismeel Rawther, NORKA Roots Director (SUPPLIED)

By VM Sathish

The Kerala government’s Non-Resident Keralites Affairs Department (Norka) has started collecting information about hundreds of non-resident Keralites trapped in the GCC jails even after completing their sentence  and the nodal agency is coordinating with Indian embassies and jail authorities to provide legal assistance to them to prepare for their release.

Speaking to 'Emirates24|7', Ismayeel Rawther, Managing Director of the UAE- based Fine Fair group of retail shops and the newly appointed director on the board of Norka Roots, said the agency’s grievance reddressal cell has been receiving complaints from relatives of NRKs stranded in GCC jails even after completing their sentence terms. “We are collecting their details through Indian embassies and jail authorities,” he said.

The agency is also preparing to contact all embassies and consulates in the GCC and press for the appointment of Malayalam-speaking officials in these official missions. “We are discussing the opening a new Indian consulate in Dammam. As the majority of people visiting the Indian missions in the Gulf are Keralites, it is better that there are Malayalam speaking officials there. This is in addition to the UAE’s plan to open a consulate in Kerala,” he added.

“After getting details of Keralites overstaying in the UAE, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Bahrain, we plan to provide them legal assistance through the Indian missions,” said Rawther, a businessman and philanthropist associated with the Ernamkulam Pravasi Association, UAE.

The number of Keralites overstaying in the GCC countries has increased and many of them are trapped in financial cases. There are cases of people going to jail even for bouncing of small cheques. Giving them legal aid will help them come out of jail. A Saudi-based Indian businessman has agreed to  provide free air tickets to Keralites jailed in Saudi Arabia for overstaying.

He said the agency will also constitute advisory commiittees of eleven members representing various socio-political organisations and community members in each of the Gulf countries to address the problems of the overseas Keralite community and help in direct interaction with the state government. “In bigger countries like Saudi Arabia there will be about four advisory committees representing various regions,” he said.

He said Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, who is also chairman of Norka Roots, is keenly following NRK issues. “We hope the chief minister and Norka minister K C Joseph are keen to solve some of the problems facing overseas Keralites. The chief minister is familiar with the problems faced by NRKs in UAE. Of late, he has been conducting ‘meet the people’ programmes in various parts of the state. He may visit the UAE as part of a ‘meet overseas Keralites’ programme,” Ismail added.

He said that , to address the security problems faced by NRK families, special cells with deputy superintendents of police have been set up in all districts of Kerala. There have been instances where properties owned by NRIs staying abroad were usurped by the land mafia or relatives. To create a comprehensive data base of overseas Keralites, information will be collected from the village level.

The Global NRK meet, held on the initiative of Norka and Kerala government, have discussed various projects that can be financed by NRK funds and special emphasis was given to address the investment and property frauds and cheating money chains to which many NRKs have fallen victims.

“In order to control such frauds, people have to be aware of the background of promoters and their project details. In future, Norka permission may be needed to market real estate and construction projects from the state to overseas Indians. Norka may collect details about the property and housing projects. The chief minister is keenly following these cases. If investors want to know details of such projects, Norka may be able to do it,” he said.

Another problem faced by NRK parents is the abnormally high fees charged by the self-financing engineering and medical colleges from the NRK students.

“Now the NRI quota is limited only to private self-financing colleges. There are demands to provide NRIs seats in government-run engineering and medical colleges and to reduce the high fees charged from NRI students,” he said.

He also added that the state government is considering plans to set up a ‘pravasi’ (overseas Indians) university and a pravasi bank.