The Kerala government will offer a more attractive rehabilitation package to those who had to return from the Middle East because of economic downturn or other reasons, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said on Thursday.
Vijayan told the assembly that Keralites settled in the Middle East have not only been facing economic downturn due to falling oil prices but also governmental regulations requiring employers to reserve jobs for the locals.
"On both these issues, it's our diaspora which will bear the brunt as there is a likelihood of our people returning back," Vijayan said in response to a calling attention motion moved by CPI-M legislator K.V. Abdul Khadar.
"To tackle this, the state government will chalk out special rehabilitation schemes and welfare packages. Already there are programmes, but it appears they have not yielded the desired results," said Vijayan.
The Keralite diaspora is estimated to be three million strong, and a major chunk of them is located in the Middle East.
Thousands of Indians working in these countries have been returning home on account of downturn caused by steep fall in oil prices as also regulations that aim at increasing the proportion of locals in employment vis-à-vis migrants.
Vijayan said the existing welfare scheme for the returnees is not attractive enough as is borne out by low take-up -- only 1.40 lakh people have taken advantage of it.
"We will work in tandem with the various diaspora organisations to see that the scheme is revised. We will also work with financial institutions to work out suitable schemes for the returnees to set up self-employment schemes and also avenues for employing them," he said.
The Chief Minister said "path-breaking land reforms" and the "contribution of our diaspora" are two biggest achievements of the state and now the government will do its best to tackle the issues facing Keralites living abroad and those returning.
Presenting the state budget on July 8, Finance Minister Thomas Isaac increased the welfare fund for the needy returnees from just Rs 1 lakh to Rs 10 crore.
Isaac also doubled the fund for the scheme for lending money to the returnees from Rs 12 crore to Rs 24 crore.