Thiruvananthapuram, Oct 3 (IANS) Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy Monday blamed national carrier Air India for not offering "favourable" fares for the benefit of thousands of Keralites settled in the Middle East countries.
"If Air India comes out with favourable air fares, the other airlines will follow suit. So far, we have had no favourable attitude from Air India in this regard. I have raised this issue with Civil Aviation Minister Vayalar Ravi, who has promised to look into it," said Chandy.
The one-way fare to Dubai post-Onam is at a high Rs.25,000, compared to Rs.7,500 in normal times. The fares go up astronomically during festive occasions when thousands of Keralites come home for holidays.
Chandy spoke about Air India fares in his reply to a calling attention raised by state Congress president and party legislator Ramesh Chennithala in the floor of the assembly Monday.
Chennithala pointed out that the Kerala diaspora which for many years has been the backbone of the state economy is facing numerous issues, and despite it being raised many times, no favourable action has been taken.
"On the issue of providing rehabilitation to the thousands of Kerala diaspora who have returned for good from the Middle East, we are in talks with the centre and also leading banking institutions in the state to see how they can come forward with favourable schemes for them. Very soon we are confident we will be able to provide sops when it comes to providing financial assistance through banks," said Chandy.
There are more than two million Keralites settled abroad, with 90 percent of them in the Middle East. Over the years, Kerala's economy has been sustained through the remittances made by them, which now have touched Rs.30,000 crore annually.
"With regard to the legal assistance to the Keralites languishing in Middle East jails, we are in touch with the centre and the Indian embassies in these countries. We also have our own scheme 'Karunya' where assistance is provided to transport the dead from the Middle East. We will extend this scheme to provide legal assistance also," added Chandy.
He added that a meeting of all Kerala organisations in the Middle East would be held here Dec 29-30 and a similar meeting would be held abroad. Its date and venue would be announced later.
"We will take up all the issues in these meetings, besides we will also see how the diaspora can be used to provide an impetus to the 'Emerging Kerala 2012' programme," said Chandy.
'Emerging Kerala 2012' programme is aimed to seek investment into the state and is organised by the state government.
Chennithala also raised the issue of voting rights to the diaspora.
"We know that only a miniscule percentage of our diaspora could exercise their franchise in the April assembly polls, and many others could not do it due to certain problems. We will make sure that when the voters' list is prepared again, we will get to enrol the diaspora also," said Chandy.