Pravasi Bharatiya Divas begins

Giving a platform to Keralites in the Gulf to air their grievances, an exclusive session on NRIs in that region was held as the 11th Pravasi Divas began on Monday.

In his inaugural address, Union Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs Vayalar Ravi said the Central and Kerala governments should hear the woes of men and women "toiling" in the Gulf and urged the delegates to air their issues openly.

While admitting that solutions to only some of their problems have been arrived at so far, he said there were issues galore which remains to be addressed.

The suggestions which come up would be discussed with Prime Minister and at the Union Cabinet, he said.

In his keynote address, Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said providing the NRIs with voting rights was the biggest achievement for those living abroad.

Minister of State for External Affairs, E Ahamed said efforts would be made for the skill development of unskilled workers. Kerala government should also take steps in this regard.

Kerala minister for Non-Resident Kerala Affairs, K C Joseph said the government has plans to permit NRIs exercise their voting rights in panchayat and local body polls too. A bill in this regard would be tabled soon, he said.

The minister alleged that the AIR India was showing 'step motherly' treatment to the Gulf Keralites. The government was determined to go ahead with the state's ambitious Air Kerala project at any cost, he said.

The theme of the session is to boost economic and social engagement with the diaspora in the Gulf region. The full day session is also expected to discuss significant issues that impact NRIs such as repatriation, labour mobility, partnership agreements in the Gulf region and relief and rehabilitation of Indian nationals affected by recent uprisings.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh would formally inaugurate the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas meet tomorrow.

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