The plight of non-resident Keralites who stay on for the elusive last salary in international war zones whether they be in Iraq, Libya or Yemen seems to be a replay of a scenario all over again. They stay for months, after the outbreak of civil unrest or foreign occupation, then start raising an outcry through the media to pressure the state and ultimately the central government to make operational last-minute evacuation measures. Surely, the NRIs, especially those from Kerala working in the strife-torn Mediterranean countries, cannot expect that mounting pressure on the Indian government alone yields results—by way of air-lifting or using international waterways.
Further muddling the troubled waters is the inevitable absence of proper details regarding Indian settlers abroad. Time and again it has been proven that most Indian embassies in the Middle East seem confused when asked to furnish details of our citizens residing in those countries. This confusion was evident during the Iraq conflagration. No doubt, things will not be much different in Yemen too as both the Indian and Kerala governments will find from the Indian embassy in Sana’a. Because, there will be a scamper among the illegal immigrants to prove they are Indians, as they await an exit permit from Yemen.
Unlike in Libya and Iraq, the rush for evacuation in Yemen is not built around Malayali nurses. Also, there is much similarity in the manner in which external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj and Kerala CM Oommen Chandy had to intervene in ensuring the safe evacuation of Malayali expats, even as the media started mounting pressure at home. There are more GCC nations that could come under siege in the coming months and the Indian government may do well to formulate some standard operating procedures that can get triggered the moment signs of trouble are visible. But then, such a smooth evacuation may be too bland and bereft of the high drama that the public expects when a country comes under siege and may well be open to criticism of precipitate action.