The Kerala government has come under severe criticism for wasting money when this could be used to help migrant Keralites
When laid off and deserted Keralite migrant workers are reeling under poverty in the Arab Gulf countries, Kerala government spending Rs 3.04 crore to hold the Lok Kerala Sabha (LKS) meet is drawing criticism.
“Since 2016, we are fighting a case here in Saudi Arabia to get compensation for the laid off workers from OGER company. While we are struggling for survival, it is unfortunate to see that money is being thrown away in the name of the welfare of migrants,” Lateefh Thechy, a social worker in Riyadh for the last 30 years, told The Lede over the phone from Riyadh.
According to Lateefh, there are around 4000 Indians who are fighting the case and nearly 70% are Keralites.
“The case is still stuck in the apex court of Saudi. Workers who worked even for more than 20 years had to leave empty-handed. They all are in a bad situation,” Lateefh said adding that day by day the number of labour cases are going up in Saudi Arabia and the other Arab Gulf countries.
The Lede had reported in November that, on average, 52 Indians working in the Arab Gulf are lodging labour complaints on a daily basis in the Indian embassies quoting a data tabled in the lower house of parliament.
In 2019, from January 01 till October 12, there were 15,051 complaints registered with the Indian embassies in all six Arab Gulf countries, which are Oman, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Qatar.
And in the Arab Gulf, the working conditions are hostile due to the Kafala system, an employer-employee relation followed by the Arab government, since 1960s, which keeps the worker ‘bonded’ to the employer, which eventually leads to exploitation of workers putting them under stress.
Lateefh has set up a separate room in his house in Saudi Arabia to give space for his fellow volunteers to attend workers’ cases.
The second session of LKS is happening on the 01, 02, and 03 January 2020 at the Legislative Assembly Complex in Thiruvananthapuram.
An official document accessed by The Lede reveals that for managing the three-day event itself, Rs 1.38 crore has been paid to an event management company and the website for the meet was built by spending Rs 4.5 lakh.
Additionally, Rs 45 lakh has been spent for the airfare for 110 delegates, Rs 45 lakh for accommodation for 250 delegates, Rs 20 lakh for coordinating the event and also Rs 40 lakh to meet any unexpected emergencies.
The document also reveals that Rs 12 lakh has been set aside for coordination and miscellaneous expenses.
Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala said that they are boycotting the second edition of the LKS, saying the promises made in the first edition had not been honoured so far and there was no point spending crores of rupees on the second edition without achieving its targeted goals.
“Two Keralite returnee migrants who had invested in Kerala had to commit suicide and that was the achievement during this period,” he said adding that like various projects, the state government has been trying to make the initiative a symbol of squandering.
According to Chennithala, the only change that happened during the period was the formation of a secretariat for the conduct of the LKS and renovation of the Sankaranarayanan Thampi hall spending crores on the event.
“In the first edition, the government had spent around Rs 1.85 crore for modernising the hall to convene the summit. Now the state government has renovated it again by spending around Rs 16.5 crore,” he said.
He asked why the government which is going through a severe financial crisis was throwing away money.
According to reports, for holding the first edition of the summit, the government had spent Rs 2.85 crore while the regional summit held in the Arab Gulf had cost Rs 18.4 lakh.
Commenting on the extravagance of LKS, Bino PP, a marketing official in Oman for the last 30 years, said that none of the LKS members are seen committed to attending workers’ issues and it is unfortunate to see LKS throwing away money.
“Currently, in Oman, there are hundreds of Keralite workers laid off and deserted from different companies. They are struggling even for daily food. Some even had told me that they will commit suicide if they don’t get repatriated very soon. I have recorded videos with me. Interestingly, many of these workers had approached many LKS members, however, they were ignored,” Bino said.
“What I could see is that all LKS members either belong to some political party, religious groups and caste groups. It is quite embarrassing,” he added.
In an article released on Tuesday, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said that the functioning of LKS during the past two years was quite significant as it helped the transfer of resources and ideas, making NRKs (non-resident Keralites) the partners of development in Kerala.
“The Left Democratic Front (LDF) considers LKS as a platform for delivering what it had claimed during its inception. The LKS secretariat, as well as standing committees too, have been constituted,” he said adding that formation of the Overseas Keralites Investment and Holding Limited has helped to channelise the NRK returns in the development of the State.
Pinarayi said that LKS is being developed as a platform for addressing all issues faced by NRKs and this has come as a great relief to those residing overseas.