The Kerala Finance Minister announced Rs 25 crore for the next year for Swanthwana scheme to provide death assistance to Non-Resident Keralites.

Kerala govt to bear expenses of bringing mortal remains from Gulf expatriates laud move
news Budget Saturday, February 02, 2019 - 08:15

The Kerala Budget bears some good news for non-resident Malayalis residing in the Middle East. In a relief, Kerala Finance Minister Thomas Isaac announced that Non-Resident Keralites Affairs (NORKA), a department within the Kerala government, will bear the expenses of bringing back mortal remains of those who pass away in the Middle Eastern countries.   

NORKA, an organisation set up to redress the grievances of non-resident Malayalis, said that they will bear the expenses. “However, we are yet to work on the modality and the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). We are yet to decide if we want to go for a reimbursement method or make the payments directly,” Harikrishnan Namboothiri K, Chief Executive Officer, NORKA Centre, Thiruvananthapuram, told TNM.

He also said that the Kerala government had allotted Rs 15 crore for the Swanthwana scheme last year. “This year, the government has allotted Rs 25 crore for the next year,” he adds.

Swanthwana is a scheme for NRKs and dependent family members to offer them financial assistance. Under the scheme, death assistance to family members of the NRK will be provided.

Kerala government set an example: Expatriates

Bency Mohan of Navayugam, an organisation in Saudi Arabia that has been actively involved in helping Indians with humanitarian services, points out that repatriation of dead bodies has been one of the long-standing demands of the Indian expatriates to the Kerala government.

“We are yet to receive a formal intimation from NORKA. It is a great move by the Kerala government; they did what other state governments did not do. This will be extremely helpful to the Indian diaspora,” he told TNM.

Ashraf Thamaraserry, a UAE-based businessman from Kerala who has helped repatriate thousands of Indians in the country, told TNM that he had met Thomas Isaac a few months ago to explain the hardships in the process. He also lauded the effort taken by the Kerala government.

“Kerala government has set an example to the other Indian state governments,” he says. “One of the main hurdles in repatriating bodies is the expense. Around 120 Indians die per month in UAE. The NRIs from other parts of India, especially north India, face a lot of challenges because their respective state governments have not set up any mechanisms to help them. A man from Tamil Nadu, who passed away seven days ago in Dubai, was finally repatriated on Thursday. So, I think the Centre should follow Kerala and set up a law or scheme to address the problem of repatriating bodies of Indian expatriates,” he told TNM.  

Why this is a relief for Gulf expatriates

Repatriating bodies from Gulf countries to India is a herculean task and a costly affair too for the Indian social workers or organisations in the Gulf countries, involved in assisting NRKs and dependent family members.

According to Bency Mohan, in the case of natural death (due to illness or heart attack), the sponsor of the deceased is responsible for sending mortal remains of the person to his/her native country.

“After receiving the police clearance certificate, death certificate, Indian Embassy’s NOC, local embalming certificate from the mortuary and the exit visa, some good sponsors will bear all the costs of sending the body back to the person’s country. If the sponsor backs out, as in most cases, Kerala associations intervene and help the grieving family with the repatriation expenses,” says Bency.

The total expense to ensure the dead body reaches his/her native state is 4,800 UAE Dirham (Rs 93,193), says Ashraf. “It is 1,740 UAE Dirham (Rs 33,783) for the coffin, 1,072 UAE Dirham (Rs 20,813) for embalming, 220 UAE Dirham (Rs 4,271) and 105 UAE Dirham (Rs 2,039) for the death certificate,” he adds.

In addition to making arrangements to procure all necessary documents, these voluntary organisations bear the flying charges. While airlines used to levy charges based on the weight of the deceased person, Ashraf says the rate has been standardised now.  

“Currently, the rate for flying the body is 1,410 UAE Dirham (Rs 27,376). This is applicable to all GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) countries,” he says.

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