Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan Image Credit: IANS

Dubai: Expatriates from the Indian state of Kerala have urged the state government to aid the families of Keralites dying overseas due to COVID-19.

While various community groups of Malayalis in the UAE have voiced this opinion in the recent past, a petition in this regard has now been submitted to the government by the delegates and invitees and Loka Kerala Sabha (LKS), a global body of expat Malayalis.

NK Kunhammed, an LKS delegate from the UAE is the one who signed the petition on behalf of the WhatsApp group of LKS delegates and invitees here.

The petition, a copy of which is with Gulf News, said urgent attention has been sought from the government of Kerala, in the context of the evolving global situation around the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Different parts of the world have been affected at varied degrees on numerous fronts and the pandemic seems to spare none. Amidst the rather underwhelming unfolding of events, these unprecedented times have affected a majority of the expats during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The petition pointed out that the worst affected are bereaved families of COVID-19 victims that have lost the next of kin.

“In a remittance-dominated economy like Kerala wherein migration and emigration are an inherent part of the system, an increasing number of Keralite migrants and emigrants have unfortunately succumbed to the virus already; some of whom were sole breadwinners for their respective families,” it stated.

210 Keralites die abroad

Kerala’s Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Monday announced that a total 210 Keralites have so far died of coronavirus in foreign countries.

This includes the number of Malayali expats who died in the UAE also.

In mid-April, it was announced that families who have lost a loved one to COVID-19 in the UAE will be provided for by a government-linked charity.

The Emirates Red Crescent was chosen to act as patron to families of all nationalities who lost a relative.

Rajan Mahe, an invitee of the LKS in the UAE, said it was not clear if the Red Crescent’s aid would benefit the families of the victims who live outside the UAE.

“Also, this request to the government is not just for the families of those who die in the UAE or GCC alone. This is to help poor families who have lost their breadwinners. This is meant to support deserving families of COVID-19 victims across the world,” he told Gulf News.

The petition said there is a widespread concern increasingly being raised within the expat circles and it would need immediate strategic intervention from the state government and authorities concerned.

Welfare package needed

A welfare package of measures must be announced by the state government of Kerala for the bereaved families of expats (international, national and ‘guest labourers’ from other states of India) affected by COVID-19, it proposed.

Though the damage that erupted in the wake of the pandemic for the families of these deceased expats is beyond repair, the petition said a prudently devised monetary support system rolled out in a systematic manner would help ease distress in the immediate aftermath.

“It should be a huge step towards allaying immediate concerns and rehabilitating affected families back into normalcy. This might not be deemed applicable or necessary in all cases and a structured protocol should be defined incorporating discretion of the state government considering multiple factors including financial soundness, family’s consent and so forth.”

Though the shape and form of these measures would need approval and establishing by the state government, it said governmental bodies and state machineries like NORKA, NORKA Roots, Kerala Pravasi Welfare Board, Loka Kerala Sabha etc. could be deployed effectively in institutionalising the response and effectively reaching out to grieving families quickly within a reasonably timeframe.

Central government’s help

Since migration, emigration and overseas Indian affairs fall within the remit of the External Affairs Ministry of the Government of India, the state government could also potentially lobby the central government in facilitating provisions and securing remedial funds towards the cause, the petition proposed.

“The proportion or percentage of financial support expected from the Central government to be allocated to the families of these COVID-19 victims along with a Standard Operating Protocol need mutual agreement between the central and state governments,” it added.

Keralites form more than one million among the 3.4 million Indian expats in the UAE.