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I am a representative of NRIs: Wahab

By Our Special Correspondent

KOZHIKODE, MAY 27. The Rajya Sabha MP, P.V. Abdul Wahab, has said that the appointment of Jagdish Tytler as Minister in the Union Cabinet with independent charge of NRI-related matters will help Keralites employed in Gulf countries to cope with their problems better.

Speaking at a `Face-to-face' programme organised by the Kozhikode Press Club today, Mr. Wahab said that he was happy that the country finally had a Minister to look after the affairs of NRIs. More so, since a large number of them were Keralites employed in foreign countries.

Mr. Wahab said his priority as a Rajya Sabha member would be to raise the problems of NRIs in Parliament since he had been nominated to the post by Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) precisely for that purpose. The Kerala Muslim Cultural Centre in Gulf countries had also used its clout to make him a Rajya Sabha member, he said.

He had identified three areas where NRIs needed help. These were cheaper air travel from Gulf cities to India, easier procedures for attestation of SSLC books for workers seeking employment in Gulf and arrangements to enable the large number of Indians in Gulf countries to vote in the elections.

Mr. Wahab said the problems related to attestation of SSLC books could be eased considerably if an arrangement was made for Indian Embassy to attest the seal of the State Home Secretary. The current procedures involved had proved to be cumbersome as these had to be completed in offices in Delhi. Mr. Wahab also remarked it was unfair that NRIs in Gulf countries were denied their right to vote when Filipinos and citizens of many European countries were being allowed to vote from their place of employment in the Gulf region.

He said arrangements to enable NRIs to participate in Indian elections could be made by making use of advanced technology. Mr. Wahab had already sent representation regarding his demands to Mr. Jagdish Tytler. He said that he would discuss these matters in detail with the Minister during the Rajya Sabha session scheduled to begin on June 4.

Mr. Wahab was of the opinion that tightening of emigration rules by the Indian Government and persecution by employers in Gulf countries would have an adverse effect on the employment opportunities of Indians. Often rules were tightened on the basis of isolated and sometimes exaggerated cases of harassment of Indian workers by Gulf-based employers.

While care had to be taken to protect Indian labourers, over-reaction by the Indian Government to the issue would prompt recruiting agencies to look to Pakistan and Bangladesh to meet their requirements.

To a question, Mr. Wahab said he was not an NRI and that he no longer enjoyed the benefits of NRIs allowed under RBI regulations. He had been casting his votes in elections since 1982.

He was allotted the voters identity card in 1998. Asked about the allegation that his nomination as Rajya Sabha member was a major cause of defeat of the IUML candidate in the Manjeri Lok Sabha constituency, Mr. Wahab said the election result in Manjeri was being analysed by party leaders. The IUML State working committee would meet on May 30 and 31 to consider views of party units in this matter.

As for the allegation that IUML cadres were against his nomination to Rajya Sabha, Mr. Wahab said the nomination was made by party chief, Panakkad Mohammedali Shihab Thangal, who enjoyed the absolute support of party cadres.

Asked why the IUML candidate nominated by Mr. Thangal was routed in Manjeri, Mr. Wahab said the Manjeri debacle was due to many factors, and not his nomination alone.

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