An Indian delegation, headed by Vayalar Ravi, Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs, was recently in Muscat to invite the expatriate community to the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD) 2013. The Indian community also got an opportunity to air its grievances.
Although Ravi was unable to attend a reception held in his honour at the Indian Embassy due to ill health, T K Manoj Kumar, joint secretary, Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs (MOIA), answered questions and accepted memorandums on the minister's behalf.
A section of the community wore black shirts to protest against what they perceived was the minister's inability to help Indian expatriates in the Gulf. They raised concerns about the mismanagement of Air India flights to and from the region, high ticket prices, low flight frequency and frequent cancellations. The group also said they were against the recent hike in passport and counsellor services fees.
Members of the Gujarati and Punjabi communities also presented memoranda with a list of grievances.
On the issue of higher air fares and fewer flights to the region, Kumar said that his ministry would engage the Indian Ministry of Civil Aviation. “Rome was not built in a day, but surely there could be a way forward,” he said.
The MOIA delegation's visit to Muscat was part of a Gulf tour undertaken by the ministry to invite Indians to the PBD, to be held in Cochin, Kerala, from January 7 to 9. He added that the Indian diaspora is second only to the Chinese, but number one as far as remittances are concerned. “Remittances have helped the economy considerably.”
Kumar said that the first day of the PBD will be dedicated to NRIs from the Gulf. “You will have ample time for raising grievances, and you will be able to meet several decision makers at the conclave.”