THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: On Tuesday, it would be exactly 53 days since a woman in the capital has been waiting for the body of her husband, who died in Saudi Arabia. Ironically, this happens in a state which boasts of two ministers responsible for the welfare of Indians abroad; Vayalar Ravi, the Union Minister of Overseas Indian Affairs, and E Ahmed, the Union Minister of State for External Affairs.
The state also has an exclusive department to look after the welfare of non-resident Keralites.
Express had on March 24 reported the plight of Lathakumari V S, hailing from Powdikonam here, who along with her three children were waiting to have a final glimpse of their dear one. Murugan K, 52, had reportedly committed suicide by hanging at Al-Hasa, Saudi Arabia, where he was working at a construction site.
The Department of Non-resident Keralites’ Affairs (NORKA), which woke up from its slumber only after the publication of the news report, sent an e-mail to the Indian Embassy in Saudi Arabia and felt that its job was over.
“The Embassy has acknowledged our mail but no further information was received,” said R S Kannan, Joint Secretary, NORKA.
Surprisingly, except the local councillor, no other people’s representative had visited the bereaved family, let alone offering any help. The deceased’s eldest son, a college student, is now forced to take up carpentry work to support the family. “We didn’t receive any help or even a comforting gesture from the officials or people’s representatives, except a visit by the local councillor,” said Gopakumar G, a relative of Murugan. The official apathy has led to widespread resentment among the Keralites in Saudi Arabia and expatriate welfare organisations in the state.
Office-bearers of Navodaya Samskarika Vedi, Saudi Arabia, who are trying their level best to send Murugan’s body home, said they were disappointed by the indifferent attitude of the authorities.
“The NORKA is expected to pressurise the Indian embassy here to act on such cases.
Unfortunately, it didn’t happen. It’s a cumbersome task for us to go and meet the officials by staying away from work,” said George Varghese, general secretary of the organisation.
“Of the 15 lakh Indians working in Saudi Arabia, around 9 lakh are Keralites. Unfortunately, the Government of India has not even entered into an employment contract with Saudi Arabia which would have been of immense help in such cases,” he said.
Sasikumar Thozhukkal, central committee member of the organisation, said that it is high time the embassy launched a single-window clearance facility in death cases.
“This is yet another instance that highlights NORKA’s inefficiency.
The officials are inept in dealing with the embassies,’’said P S Nair, general secretary of the Kollam-based Kerala Pravasi Welfare Association.
‘’In many similar instances in the past, the families had to approach expatriate organisations for help after being disappointed with NORKA’s lack of effective action,’’ he said.