Drainage problem in Abbasiya among top priorities of NORKA Varghese cites shortcomings in aid travel services to Kerala

KUWAIT CITY, Nov 27: The drainage problem in Abbasiya is among the top priorities for the newly appointed member of the Director Board of NORKA Welfare Board, Varghese Puthukulangara.

Non-Resident Keralites Affairs Department (NORKA) is a government of Kerala initiative set up in 1996 to attend to the needs of the Malayali diaspora spread across the world.

Varghese was talking to the Arab Times Monday discussing the key issues faced by Keralites in Kuwait, arguably the largest expatriate group in Kuwait, accounting for 65 percent of the more than 7,00,000 Indians.

The persistent problem of the overflowing drainage has reached a highpoint with the recent rains and the failure of the authorities in the last couple of days to remove the effluents from the sewerage, which was being done on a daily basis.

Varghese said it’s well known that Abbasiya is the center of Malayalis, and it’s among the most densely populated areas in Kuwait. Communication has been severely affected following the rains as the overflowing drains have flooded the roads. Residents of Abbasiya are now using longwinded routes to avoid cutting through the waste water. The foul smell is unbearable, they note.

Varghese said he will take up the matter seriously with the Indian Embassy and probe ways of finding a permanent solution to the drainage problem in Abbasiya.

Talking of larger issues concerning all the Keralites in the Gulf in general, Varghese named the shortcomings in air travel services. The Gulf expatriates have always been critical of Air India’s services in the Gulf sector, accusing them of neglect and indifference.

Talking of Kuwait, Varghese noted that Air India Express is the only Indian national air carrier connecting cities in Kerala. Earlier, two destinations, Cochin and Calicut, had direct flights from Kuwait, but now it only connects Calicut. There is no service to Trivandrum, Varghese noted.

Varghese said he will work hard to renew Air India services to these sectors, as expatriate Malayalis are shelling out huge amounts on air tickets to travel to Cochin and Trivandrum on other airlines.

Further, he added, that he will bring up the subject with ministers in his state, especially his close friend, MP K.C. Venugopal, to try and correct the situation.

Another issue of importance concerning the Malayalis in Kuwait, Varghese said, is that of outsourcing centers that deal with processing of passport applications and document attestations aimed at reducing the load on the Indian Embassy.

Currently, outsourcing centers are located at Sharq and Fahaheel, and the new NORKA board member said he will push the Indian Embassy to open one in Abbasiya, “as it is the most densely populated Indian locality in Kuwait. A lot of Indians will benefit if a center is established in Abbasiya.”

Varghese stressed the need to increase awareness back home on the realities of expatriate life. “Many are under an illusion that life in the Gulf countries is one of luxury and comfort. The many shades of grey; especially the exploitation of domestic workers by illicit agents is a cause for worry.”

Varghese is planning to initiate a big campaign on spreading awareness in Kerala on the proper means to land jobs in the Gulf. He will be holding talks with the Indian Minister for Expatriate Affairs, Vyalar Ravi, at the upcoming Indian Expatriates Conference in India.

NRI welfare fund is another area that Varghese seeks to focus on. The current government in Kerala has a high regard for expatriate Indians, “and is seeking to everything possible to address their concerns. Setting up NRI Welfare Fund offices in every Gulf country, is top on the Kerala government’s agenda for NRIs.”

Varghese is the General Convener of Overseas Indian Cultural Congress, Kuwait, and is a prominent personality in the Keralite socio-cultural sectors of Kuwait holding top positions in many organizations.

By: Valiya S. Sajjad Arab Times Staff

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