Abu Dhabi: An ambitious pension scheme introduced by the Indian government for workers in the lower-income wage bracket is expected to gain momentum, a top diplomat said here on Sunday.
T P Seetharam, the Indian Ambassador to the UAE, said although only 202 Indian workers in the UAE had enrolled in the plan, the Indian Embassy expects a boost in enrolment by involving new agencies.
Only 70 workers had joined Mahatma Gandhi Pravasi Suraksha Yojana (MPSY), the voluntary pension fund scheme, between April 2012 and February 2014. But 132 workers enrolled in the scheme in March and April thanks to the involvement of a new agency, which has engaged a money exchange centre in the enrolment process.
Seetharam was addressing a press conference at Indian Social and Cultural Centre in Abu Dhabi.
The scheme was launched in the UAE as a pilot and it will be extended to other nations based on the feedback from here, he said.
However, the Ministry of Indian Overseas Affairs has been promoting the scheme in India for workers in 17 countries including the Gulf nations, where five million Indian workers holding Emigration Clearance Required (ECR) category passports are living. India issues ECR passports to those who have not passed grade 10.
About 65 per cent of more than two million Indians in the UAE are blue-collar workers and most of them are in the ECR category.
The figures revealed by the ambassador shows that the majority (around 70) of the workers in the scheme were from the UAE. As Gulf News reported on February 10, only 90 workers out of the five million in 17 countries joined the scheme between April 2012 to January 28 this year.
The envoy said the enrolment of 132 workers in two months is an encouraging trend and the number would go up soon thanks to the involvement of agency Alankit Assignments Limited, which has brought in UAE Exchange, the money exchange centre.
Anand Bardhan, Counsellor, Community Affairs at the Indian Embassy, said around 400 workers were approached during March and April and 132 of them joined the scheme.
“This product has to be sold like an insurance product; nobody will come and ask for this,” Y Sudhir Kumar Shetty, COO-Global Operations, UAE Exchange, said. Although workers can join the scheme at 132 UAE exchange branches across the UAE, the firm will mainly depend on regular visits to workers’ accommodations for promoting the scheme, he said. “We have to talk to them when they are free.”
The workers pay no service fee to agencies because it is paid by the government of India, said Alok Agarwal, Chairman and Managing Director, Alankit Group.
He said for a minimum annual contribution of Rs5,000 (Dh303) from a worker, the government will contribute Rs3,900 and Rs2,900 for female and male workers respectively.
Only a few among more than two million Indian expatriates in the UAE are utilising the services of a support centre working round-the clock, according to a top Indian diplomat.
The Indian Workers Resource Centre (IWRC)’s toll-free helpline number 80046342 receives just 15 calls daily on an average, T.P Seetharam, Indian Ambassador to the UAE, said here on Sunday.
Although the centre extends counselling and support on legal, financial, personal and family problems, many people are not aware of it, he said.
He requested the Indian expatriates to seek support from the centre, if they are in distress.
The resource centre set up by the Indian Embassy is managed an outsourced agency with trained professionals to handle the problems.