Kerala sets up fund for rehabilitation of Gulf returnees

Updated 24 January 2014

Kerala sets up fund for rehabilitation of Gulf returnees

Kerala has announced Rs 100-million fund for rehabilitation of returnees from the Gulf region after job loss besides a training program spending Rs 20 million.
The southern Indian state is taking these measures in view of the recent Nitaqat initiatives of Saudi Arabia. The authorities fear a large-scale exodus of undocumented migrants if other GCC countries follow suit.
These proposals are part of the state’s annual budget Finance Minister KM Mani presented in the Legislative Assembly Friday. “The master trainers for this will also be recruited from the (successful) emigrants (who have returned for good),” Mani said in his budget speech.
It also plans to launch an intensive awareness campaign among the prospective emigrants through print and electronic media against the fake recruiting agents at a cost of Rs 6 million.
“There are a lot of people landed up in the prisons of the Gulf countries after being duped by visa rackets and fake recruiting agents. (This is) to avoid such a plight,” he said.
The government will also prepare a data bank of the Kerala diaspora to provide details of their qualifications and expertise, which will also be utilized to upgrade skills of the returnees.
“I have set aside Rs.5 million to set up a data bank of the diaspora who are experts in various fields and their expertise could be used for the betterment of the state,” Mani said.
He has also set aside Rs.2.5 million for conducting investor seminars and for promotion of Kerala culture among the diaspora through seminars and other similar programs in the US and Europe.
The budget for the fiscal year 2014-15 gives stress on the agriculture sector to improve productivity through incentives in view of the rising food prices and mobilization of resources through raising taxes. He has also set aside about Rs 500 million for an income guaranteed scheme.
The scheme benefits farmers cultivating within two hectares of land in case their crops fail and 90 percent of the expenses of the insurance will be borne by the government.
Other farmer-friendly projects include the formation of an Agriculture Mission to promote hi-tech farming with the help of agencies like M.S. Swaminathan Foundation and setting up of cooperatives for marketing the produces.
There will be a price hike for various commodities, including all cooking oil except coconut and rice bran oil, two-wheelers, cars and luxury cars and Indian made foreign liquor.

The additional tax on LPG will be taken off so that the customers will have to pay Rs 41 less per cylinder but this was an announcement made earlier.
The Finance Minister also announced a scheme to provide laptops for girls from poor families pursuing professional courses and a project for early detection of cancer.
Some other welfare schemes include state funding of education for orphaned children up to Class XII and monthly financial assistance to elders suffering from chronic illnesses. He announced a substantial increase in the pensions for the destitute.
He sought to raise additional resources of Rs15.56 billion, collecting around Rs 2.6 billion from motor vehicles and transport sector alone. The budget sharply increased the purchase tax on imported vehicles, lump sum tax on motor cars of various capacities and sizes, new generation caravans and interstate coaches.
It also hiked the duty on Indian Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL) by 10 percent, eyeing to net an additional amount of Rs4billion. He rationalized the compounding taxes on metal crusher units and brought manufactured sand under the tax net, which together would contribute Rs1.4bn.
The concession enjoyed by eateries selling multi-national brands had been withdrawn, making the food sold by them costly. The service apartments given on a daily rental basis had been slapped with a 12.5 percent tax and doubled taxes on buildings and levy on luxury buildings. It proposes to increase the fair value of land and to rationalize stamp duty for various document registration.
The budget exempted the Kochi Metro project from Works Contract Tax, which will cause Rs2.5bn loss to the state government.
The budget showed a total revenue income of Rs.648.42 billion, while revenue expenditure was pegged at Rs.719.74 billion and after providing for additional expenditure and resource mobilization, the budget shows a year end deficit of Rs1.69 billion.
The State has registered a remarkable growth rate of 8.2 percent in 2012-13 despite the economic slowdown being witnessed in India.

Portugal says Iranian visas suspended for consulate upgrade

Updated 4 min 24 sec ago

Portugal says Iranian visas suspended for consulate upgrade

  • The suspension is temporary
  • Portuguese FM earlier said they suspended visas for unspecified security reasons

LISBON: Portugal stopped issuing entry visas for Iranian nationals while it upgrades security at its consulate in Tehran, not because of political issues or any security threats, the Portuguese foreign ministry said.

The suspension is temporary and alternatives will be put in place to issue travel documents to those who need them, the ministry said in a statement released late on Tuesday.

The move “does not result from an assessment of the general security conditions in Iran or any other institutional or political aspect,” the ministry said.

Earlier on Tuesday, Foreign Minister Augusto Santos Silva told a parliamentary committee that the issuance of visas had been suspended for unspecified security reasons.

Joao Goncalves Pereira, a lawmaker from the conservative CDS-PP party who had asked the minister about the suspension during the committee hearings, said that according to his information visas for Iranians had been suspended for two or three weeks.

The Iran embassy in Lisbon said a spokesman for the Iranian foreign ministry would issue a statement soon.