Indian minister pledges to resolve major expat issues

Aviation
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From high air ticket prices to Indian destinations from the GCC and to issues faced by non-resident Indians (NRIs) relating to the Aadhar card, India’s newly appointed minister of state of state for foreign affairs has promised to expedite solutions relating to various issues of expatriates.

V Muraleedharan, Minister of State for External Affairs and Parliamentary Affairs, interacted with the media and members of the Indian community on Friday in Dubai.

The minister visited Dubai while on a stopover from his official visit to Nigeria, where he participated in Nigeria’s Democracy Day.

His first official trip to the UAE began with a meeting with the blue-collared workers at the Eversendai labour accommodation in DIP in the morning. He also met the members of the Indian business community during a meet organised by the Indian Business and Professionals Council, followed by an official reception at the Consulate-General of India in Dubai.

Air travel flexibility a priority

The minister said making air travel to India flexible and comfortable for NRIs residing in the Gulf is a top priority, as presently Gulf NRIs face multiple issues while planning trips back home, especially the high cost of travel.

Muraleedharan also said escalating airfare is an alarming issue and after his meeting with the minister for civil aviation, the price regulation on air tickets have been placed on a priority list.

He added: “From Gulf region, there are a total of 1,050 flights that travel to various destinations across India every week. The grounding of Jet Airways flights has contributed more towards this problem. I think our priority should be to sort these issues out as soon as possible.” He suggested that flights to India from Gulf region, especially to airports in Kerala, faced several issues, and he explained his plans on meeting with the respective authorities to resolve these issues as soon as possible.

During the interactive session with members of the Indian community, Muraleedharan said he would like to take steps to make Indian airports more traveller-friendly.

He added that several mechanisms were put into place to make travelling easier for Indians, including removing the ceiling on the baggage tax, reducing the number of screening processes, etc. “Our airports should help anyone who wants to travel. We are aiming to provide a friendly atmosphere,” he stated.

Meanwhile, in a bid to resume Emirates Airlines services to Kozhikode in Kerala, members of the business community, including Dr Azad Moopen, chairman, Aster DM Healthcare Group, along with James Mathew, senior partner and CEO of Crowe, and representatives from the Kerala Muslim Cultural Centre (KMCC) had a meeting with the minister.

According to officials at the KMCC, the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority has requested India’s Ministry of Civil Aviation to grant Emirates a temporary approval to operate 2,500 weekly seats in each direction on the Dubai-Kozhikode route for a period of four months, effective from June 2019 for the summer high peak demand.

“The minister has assured to take it up on priority with the cabinet secretary for civil aviation at New Delhi in two weeks. A response to the letter is anticipated from the Ministry of Civil Aviation of India for getting the necessary approvals from the authorities,” said Anwar Naha of the Dubai chapter of KMCC.

Status of e-migrate Bill

Muraleedharan said discussions for the Emigration Bill 2019 are in the final stages. However, it will not be tabled in this parliamentary session. The Ministry of External Affairs had proposed to introduce the Emigration Bill to replace the existing Emigration Act, 1983.

He said the bill will focus on providing safety to workers aspiring to travel to Gulf countries. “The law would ensure that workers will not be cheated by fraudulent recruiting agents and the government will provide them with job protection and training. The workers will also be given post-departure counselling,” he explained.

However, when quizzed about the proposal to register NRI details on the e-migrate platform, Muraleedharan said the government is still mulling over the issue. “We are still discussing whether to make it mandatory or voluntary. However, I do hope we will be able to table this at the earliest possible parliamentary session,” he added.

dhanusha@khaleejtimes.com

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