The Pension and Life Insurance Fund for Overseas Indian Workers, or the Mahatma Gandhi Pravasi Suraksha Yojana, was announced by the Indian government’s ministry of overseas Indian affairs to help semi-skilled and unskilled workers save a part of their income for resettlement and retirement.
Under the plan, holders of emigration check required (ECR) passports – those who have not passed Grade 10 – will be eligible for pension benefits, return and resettlement savings, and life insurance. The ministry will also contribute to the pension and resettlement funds.
“We started visiting labour camps last week as part of the scheme’s pilot programme,” said Narayanan Deva Rao, the deputy chief executive of Bank of Baroda, an Indian bank appointed to facilitate the scheme.
“This will be a continuous process. The aim is to bring as many people as possible into the fold.”
According to the plan, subscribers will contribute a minimum of 5,000 Indian rupees (Dh323) each year, with the ministry’s contributions varying depending on gender.
The government will pay 2,000 rupees for men and 3,000 rupees a year for women to make the total savings between 7,000 and 8,000 rupees a year. Benefits will be provided for five years or the period of overseas employment, whichever is less.
Workers can opt to register and open an overseas Indian bank account, to which they can make a remittance any time.
Indian labourers welcomed the safety net that their government was offering them.
“I think it is a good scheme,” said Deepak Kumar, an electrician with the ETA construction group.
“It is when people leave that they need money the most because they can go back and start their own businesses or help their families.” Mr Kumar said he had heard of the plan but would like to know the details.
“I will invest in this scheme when I have a little money.”
Indian officials said the UAE fund, India’s first overseas scheme approved in January by the government, would soon be introduced, more than a year after its announcement.
“Bank of Baroda and State Bank of Travancore will facilitate the scheme. We will do more publicity through the banks and Indian Workers Resource Centre once the fund has been launched.”
Although the Indian embassy had previously said about one million people in the UAE would benefit from the plan, Mr Lokesh said there were no statistics available on the number of semi-skilled and unskilled workers in the country.
There are an estimated two million Indian expatriates in the country, 60 per cent of whom are labourers.
Reported in The National, June 6, 2013.