Saturday April 15 2006 14:14 IST
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The hopes of over 15 lakh Non-Resident Keralites (NRKs) to participate in the Assembly elections following the Centre’s in-principle clearance to grant voting rights to NRIs have been shattered as the Centre has failed to make the necessary amendments in the Representation of People’s Act before the poll notification was issued.
Aggrieved over the Government negligence towards their issues, the Videshi Malayalee Association (VMA), an organisation representing the returnees and expatriates, had even decided to field its own candidates in NRK-dominated constituencies in Thrissur, Malappuram, Pathanamthitta, Kollam and Thiruvananthapuram. But it finally backtracked under pressure from different political parties.
It was in early 2006 that the Centre decided to grant voting rights to expatriates. The UDF had been pinning its hopes on NRKs as any decision to grant the right to vote for them would benefit it in the election. But the delay in amending the Representation of People’s Act derailed the entire process.
The VMA initially decided to field around 25 candidates to highlight their problems such as high air tariff in the Kerala-Gulf sector, pitiable condition of the returnees, rising illegal recruitment, poor job conditions in the Gulf and the absence of consulates of embassies of Gulf countries in the state.
They are also upset that the Government had failed to provide sufficient investment opportunities to the expatriates back here.
The UDF Government had conducted a series of meets of NRKs, Malayalis in other states and the returnees.
However, these could hardly redress the grievances of these sections.
It was under pressure from the expatriates that the Air-India introduced the budget airline Air-India Express (AIE). However, AIE is still inviting criticism from various sections for its tariff pattern.
Though there were several initiatives to commence a ship service between Kerala and the Gulf countries, they also ran into several hurdles.