The Kerala Cabinet took a series of decisions on Wednesday to rehabilitate Keralites who are forced to return from Saudi Arabia following the implementation of Nitaqat in that country.

The government will seek the help of Indian employers in the Gulf to make jobs available to returnees who want to go back to the Gulf for work. A separate database of those seeking such employment will be prepared for assistance through the job portal of the Non-Resident Keralites’ Affairs Department (NoRKA) and the recruitment system of the Overseas Development and Employment Promotion Consultants (ODEPEC). A special package will be arranged for them, combining the skill development programme of the Industries Department and the skill upgrade training programme of NoRKA-Roots.

Nodal officers of various departments will help others to find self-employment. The proposals include starting of small dairy units, small-scale industries, high-tech farms, greenhouses, and ornamental fish farms. Low-interest loans will be made available to small groups, cooperatives of NoRKs, and labour contract societies to start rent-a-car business and plumbing and electrical jobs. A maximum of Rs.2 lakh is available as capital subsidy under the NoRKA Department Project for Returned Emigrants for taking up small ventures.

The Cabinet decided to initiate a programme for offering 10 per cent capital subsidy for 1,000 entrepreneurs for projects costing up to Rs.20 lakh. Besides, a 5 per cent interest subsidy is proposed on loans repayable over 10 to 15 years. This will require about Rs.10 crore, and Central funding will be sought for the plan.

The Kerala Financial Corporation will offer interest-free loan of Rs.20 lakh under the Kerala State Entrepreneur Development Mission. The Cheraman Finance Society will also offer interest-free loans.

The government will ask the State Level Banking Committee to provide easy loans to the Gulf returnees, considering the contribution of overseas Keralites to the growth of deposits. Cooperatives will be formed for starting small shopping malls, restaurants, catering units, and dry-wash units. Facilities will be made for those with special skills learned from the Gulf to use them in Kerala.

Briefing the media on the Cabinet decisions, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said that so far about 13,000 Malayalis had returned from Saudi Arabia. All Malayalis who are being forced to return are being provided free air tickets.

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