732 workers already enrolled through soft launch of Pension and Life Insurance Fund
Encouraging a habit of saving among Indian labourers working overseas, the government of India has launched a pension and insurance scheme that will help provide social security to around 600,000 workers in the UAE.
In a first of its kind initiative, all Indian workers with an ‘Emigration Clearance Required’ (ECR) stamp on their passports will be eligible for the new Mahatma Gandhi Pravasi Suraksha Yojana (pension and life insurance scheme) launched by the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs (MOIA) at the Consulate General of India in Dubai on Monday.
“The scheme aims at providing a social security net to around 5 million blue collar Indian workers, employed in 17 ECR countries including UAE. It is known that most of the workers are unable to make savings and when they are suddenly unemployed or go back home, they don’t have anything to bank upon. I formulated this scheme after listening to stories of hardship from labourers, particularly in the UAE, and this will definitely improve their finances,” said Vayalar Ravi, Minister of Overseas Indian Affairs, who launched the programme on Monday.
The scheme will contribute Rs1,000 (Dh59) per year for every Rs5,000 to Rs12,000 saved by each subscriber. The benefit will double for women subscribers for the same amount of savings. Additionally, Rs900 will be contributed to the subscriber account for saving Rs4,000 or more annually towards a return and resettlement fund.
Valid for five years, the scheme will also provide free insurance cover in the event of accidental or natural death during the period of subscription.
When asked why the programme is limited to five years only, Ravi said: “This is the first and important step towards providing a social security net for workers and there will be improvements and revisions as we move forward. We are trying to convince the Ministry of Finance to release more money for the programme and if we manage to get that, then we can offer more benefits for the workers.”
He urged the community members, employers and social organisations in the UAE to work with Bank of Baroda, the service provider for the scheme, to help create awareness among the workers about the benefits of the programme to reach out to labour accommodation.
“So far we have been able to reach out to at least 60 per cent of the labour accommodation in the UAE to create awareness about the scheme and to enroll the workers. We have a dedicated staff and a department working for the programme and following the launch we are going to aggressively market the programme,” said K.V. Rama Moorthy, Chief Executive, GCC Operations, Bank of Baroda.
Moorthy said he will double the strength of his staff dedicated for the programme and hopes to reach all the labour accommodation by the end of this year.
As many as 732 workers have already been enrolled following a soft launch in July and around 100 of those were present at the Consulate on Monday to receive their welcome kits from the minister.
“I have a big family to support back home, including my ailing mother, a younger sister, my wife and two children. What I earn here is barely enough to run the family, I hope this pension scheme will help secure my children’s future,” said Murshid Ali who is employed as a ducting worker with a construction firm for a salary of Dh900.
Another worker, Pawan Kumar, 26, also hoped that the programme gets him into a habit of saving though he is not sure how much he will be able to save after remitting most of his Dh900 salary home.
What Ali, Kumar and the likes of them will receive as return from the scheme is not much but this is definitely a step in the right direction by the Government of India.