Panel proposes age relaxation; puts forward long-term measures too

A reasonable quota and relaxation of age in government jobs have been mooted for Keralites returning from the Gulf countries.

An expert panel headed by Infrastructure Kerala Limited (INKEL) managing director T. Balakrishnan, which looked into the challenges faced by the State owing to the repatriation of Non-Resident Keralites (NoRKs) from the Gulf, has proposed a quota in government jobs for skilled personnel and an age-relaxation for a fixed period. The tenure for such relaxations can be fixed by the government. Similar concessions had been given to repatriates from Sri Lanka and Burma earlier.

As per official figures, only about 3,000 persons have returned to the State following the introduction of Nitaqat (nationalisation) in Saudi Arabia and tightening of labour rules in Kuwait. But the committee has viewed the issue with an eye on the future and suggested short-term as well as long-term measures to avert a crisis in the event of an exodus from the Gulf.

In spite of the GCC member-nations’ resolve to give maximum jobs to their citizens, many NoRKs as well as those in the State aspire to work in the Gulf. With the support of successful NoRKs in the Gulf, the government should try to identify job opportunities for those yearning to work there.

The government should form a database of skilled labour, of which there is a shortage in the State, and set up an employment portal for trade bodies to pick people from the pool to suit their needs. Enterprising returnees should be given financial support to set up new ventures, and opportunities to partner with entrepreneurs.

An interest subsidy has been mooted for starting new ventures. The government should play the role of a facilitator for securing bank loans. Many returnees will be drivers or would have worked in shops and malls. If the drivers form a travel agency, the government should prioritise and outsource their vehicle needs to such agencies. Those possessing land should be given assistance to construct buildings for accommodating government offices on long-term lease.

The committee is understood to have stressed the need for preparedness to face an exigency in the immediate future, since the Gulf countries are facing a population explosion and have been increasingly reserving government jobs for their countrymen. It underscores that the State has a social responsibility to the NoRKs who have been supporting the economy through remittances over the years.

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