Last call to receive Kuwait war compensation

Union Bank of India asked to trace 680 Keralites

K.P.M. Basheer

KOCHI: The Kuwait War Compensation Cell in the Ministry of External Affairs is on the lookout for 680 Keralites - to pay out lakhs of rupees due to them.

The cell has asked the Union Bank of India here to trace these people as soon as possible. The bank is the nodal agency in Kerala, chosen by the Union Government, to pay out compensation to those who had lost their belongings during the 1990-91 Kuwait war.

The Union Bank has been asked to advertise in Malayalam newspapers the names, passport numbers and other details of these people.

Millions of dollars are waiting with the United Nations Compensation Commission (UNCC) to be paid to the 680 persons. They had lost their jobs, assets and belongings or suffered personal injuries and had claimed compensation in accordance with the UNCC norms. (The UNCC was set up in 1991 to pay compensation to those affected by the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.)

However, despite repeated alerts, about 680 Keralite claimants are yet to show up to complete the remaining formalities and to receive the money - in many cases, running into several lakhs of rupees.

A senior bank official said that the authorities were making a last ditch effort to trace these people. He said many of these claimants must be unaware that their claims had been approved by the UNCC.

Many of them must now be working abroad, or in other States in India, as they had lost their jobs in Kuwait during the war. Some of them could even have died.

In post-Kuwait war trauma, several Keralites who had been compelled to return home leaving their life's earning in Kuwait or Iraq, had committed suicide. Some had gone insane. Most others had found jobs in other countries, mainly in the Gulf.

A special cell was created in the External Affairs Ministry to process the applications and forward them to the UNCC. The UN agency channelled the compensation through the cell.

Tens of thousands of people from several countries, particularly from Asia, had won compensation. The UNCC had so far awarded compensation to 62,329 Indians, a sizeable number of them Keralites. A total of $248.6 million had been awarded to Indians under different categories of compensation.

The Union Bank official said the Kuwait Cell had asked the bank to trace the missing claimants and to complete all the formalities by September next year.

Those who would not show up would lose their money as the UNCC was likely to wind up its Kuwait war compensation programme in the near future.

The cell had earlier sent a list of 450 Keralites who had not yet taken the compensation. This was later revised as more number of Keralites were found to have missed the opportunity.

The UNCC had received claims for $354 billion and after verifications approved $52.1 billion.

The money was charged from Iraq, at the rate of five per cent of its annual oil revenue. Iraq still owes $32.9 billion as compensation to the war victims, mainly to Kuwait.

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