Indian diaspora in Saudi Arabia remains connected to its roots

Updated 01 April 2016
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Indian diaspora in Saudi Arabia remains connected to its roots

JEDDAH: The Indian diaspora in Saudi Arabia has a unique status among non-resident Indians (NRIs) who live all over the world. In terms of numbers, according to the Indian Embassy in Riyadh, there are 2.96 million of us living and working in the Kingdom.
We are the largest group of Indians living outside India and there are 11.37 million NRIs worldwide.
There are apparently more Indians in the US but only 1.2 million are NRIs with about 3.1 million persons of Indian origin (PIOs).

Though in the Kingdom, we are mostly in semi-skilled and unskilled jobs, we rank third in remittances to our home country. Most of us are earning a modest salary while supporting a big family at home. The other aspect of NRIs in the Kingdom is that we will remain Indian until our last breath as we are not in the queue to relinquish our nationality in exchange for another. Thus we live as Indians and die as Indians.
In our daily struggle for our near and dear ones who are separated from us by thousands of miles, we give our best efforts to the host nation. We remain connected to our roots in spirit and emotion; we hold fast to our heritage, our culture, our land and our villages. We stand firm with our country through thick and thin and will continue to do so; we pray for its progress and its people, for alleviation of their poverty and for their health and safety. We keep ourselves abreast of the latest developments back home. Our television is like a window looking at the crossroads of big and small cities across India. We weep with every tragedy, laugh with every amusement and take pride in the march of progress. Here we are Indian first — Keralites, Hyderabadis, Biharis, UP-wallahs, Tamil and Maharashtrian later.
At times we hope that the people back home acknowledge our part in nation-building with the contributions we have made. The concept of nationhood truly lies in the welfare of its people, especially those from the marginalized sections and the poor. A country should prioritize improving the lot of its economically weaker section as the rich can usually take care of themselves. It is for this reason that national policies should be drafted taking into consideration the poor as the central piece. The affluent classes do not count on their leader as much as the poor do, and the poor desperately need to look up to their leader and wait with patience for resources to be distributed in the hope that one day their turn will ultimately come. It is this confidence of the poor in the leader that gives him or her strength to represent the nation as a whole, and it is this very power of the people that guides the leader in policy decisions and makes him or her all the more powerful.
As we take pride in India’s emergence as a leader in economic development and technological advancement, we also expect our government to provide welfare services on a par with our relative position in the world. Our representation on government-run programs for “Aprawasis” should be more than what it is at present. There should be a separate section in the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs to look after the welfare of NRIs from Saudi Arabia. There is need for a social security scheme for returning Indians after their superannuation and of medical insurance as NRIs need more support from their government. The Pravasi Bharatiya Bima Yojana (PBBY), a compulsory insurance scheme for overseas Indian workers having ECR passports, covers death, permanent disability, medical needs, litigation etc. but it should also be extended to cover non-emergency situations for a larger group of NRIs.
In the voluntary social security scheme, the Mahatma Gandhi Pravasi Surakhsha Yojna (MGPSY) for ECR passports holders, the government contribution is negligible. There is a need to increase the government contribution and to include others too so that in the event of an unexpected return, people can get a reasonable amount for resettlement.
Our concerns are also related to the education of our children beyond Grade 12. The Direct Admission of Students Abroad (DASA) scheme in which admissions are based on SAT, GMAT or GRE scores caters to students entering mainly technical education. We need a quota in disciplines such as medicine and management studies as well.
Embassy-run schools are doing a commendable job but they need more resources and space to accommodate growing numbers of students. With nearly three million Indians living in Saudi Arabia, there is also a need for Overseas Indian Community Centers on the embassy and consulate premises so that the community can be better served.
We are the peace ambassadors from India to our host country and are blessed with respect and love from the Saudis because of our devotion to work and discipline. Our trust and respect for each other is further cemented with the Kingdom being our fourth largest trading partner. We feel happy when we hear the phrase, “Hindi kuwais,” i.e. “Indians are good people.” This trust will result in further strengthening of bilateral ties between our two countries, God willing.

— Mubin Raza Khan is a Jeddah-based Indian academic. He teaches English at King Abdul Aziz University.


Crown prince award ‘will build Saudi-Sino cultural bridges’

Updated 22 February 2019
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Crown prince award ‘will build Saudi-Sino cultural bridges’

ARAB NEWS BEIJING: Leading academics and literary talents from Saudi Arabia and China will be honored under an award scheme sponsored by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Culture Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan announced the Prince Mohammed bin Salman Award for Cultural Cooperation between the Kingdom and China during a visit to King Abdul Aziz Public Library at Peking University in Beijing on Thursday.
The announcement was made on the eve of the Saudi crown prince’s visit to China, the latest stop on an Asian tour.
The cultural cooperation award will honor leading academics, translators and high-achievers from the Kingdom and China in the categories: Best scientific research in Arabic, best artistic work, best Chinese-Arabic book translation and vice versa, person of the year, and most influential person of the year in the cultural milieu.
Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan said: “This partnership is in the name of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and represents the common commitment to build cultural bridges between the two countries, developing cultural exchange, and promoting artistic and academic opportunities for our citizens.”
He said the yearly award will promote language, literature, and Arabic and creative arts in China, and encourage cultural exchange.
The Kingdom and China have a long history of cultural cooperation, including the annual Arabic Arts Festival.
The King Abdul Aziz Public Library at Peking University was inaugurated in 2017 during King Salman’s official visit to China, where he received an honorary doctorate degree.