Indians demand wider ICWF role



RIYADH: MD RASOOLDEEN

Published — Saturday 4 May 2013

Last update 4 May 2013 3:04 pm

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A group of Riyadh-based Indian organizations have urged India’s Minister of Overseas Affairs Vayalar Ravi to enhance services offered by the Indian Community Welfare Fund (ICWF) through the missions in Riyadh and Jeddah.
Representatives from the Federation of Kerala Associations in Saudi Arabia (FOKASA) and Pravasi Legal Aid Cell presented a petition to the visiting minister at the state guest palace in Riyadh during his visit to the capital. They also presented the Right to Information (RTI) reports about the collection and disbursement of the ICWF from both missions along with the comptroller and auditor general’s report.
FOKASA President R. Muraleedharan told Arab News that only 41 percent of the fund has been utilized for the welfare of distressed Indian expatriates.
ICWF’s primary aim is to provide food and shelter to distressed overseas Indian workers in domestic sector and unskilled laborers, extend emergency medical care to those in need, provide air passage to stranded overseas Indians, provide initial legal assistance to deserving cases and bear the expenditure on airlifting the mortal remains to India or local cremation/burial of the deceased Indians.
They said that overseas Indian workers duped by unscrupulous intermediaries in the host countries, runaway housemaids, those who become victims of accidents, deserted spouses of overseas Indians or undocumented overseas Indian workers in need of emergency assistance or any other overseas Indian citizens who is in distress should be the main beneficiaries of the fund.
Under the program, the ICWF in Riyadh Embassy has been facilitating the repatriation of around 600 mortal remains of Indian workers in the Kingdom annually and a large number of workers benefit from compensation scheme which offers supplementary funds to those employees who are paid less than their due compensation from their Saudi sponsors. Muraleedharan said that providing board and lodging to distressed overseas Indian workers in domestic sector and unskilled laborers, extending emergency medical care to those in need and providing air passage to stranded overseas Indians in need, are some of the activities that are currently funded by the ICWF. He said that the mission does not provide legal aid to the distressed workers, who cannot financially afford such a service. Paying the fines of distressed workers is also one of the services not offered by the ICWF.
The delegation complained that the Riyadh mission does not recognize social groups which looks after the interests of the distressed workers in the Kingdom. “We are just helping them on a voluntary basis. Support from the mission would boost the morale of the workers who dedicate themselves to serve their fellow countrymen,” he said.

Muraleedharan said: “FOKASA is one of the most genuine organizations in Saudi Arabia.” It has been actively involved in the Indian community affairs since 2006. In the past, he said, FOKASA was instrumental in identifying many community issues which were brought to the notice of the authorities (both Saudi and Indian) for amicable solutions.

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