The email sent by the Ambassador of India to the Indians in Kuwait
Dear Members of the Indian Community in Kuwait,
The successful official visit to Kuwait from 6-8 April 2009 by the Hon’ble Vice President of India Shri M. Hamid Ansari and Smt. Ansari, has boosted India-Kuwait ties to a qualitatively new level and I look forward to working with all concerned in advancing them even further.
Since arriving in Kuwait in March this year, I have been received with much warmth and affection by the Kuwaiti leadership, officials and people. This is a reflection of the high esteem in which India and the Indian community in Kuwait are held here. It has made my assignment in Kuwait even more pleasant.
The Indian community in Kuwait has acquired a solid reputation for being disciplined, hard working, efficient, and law-abiding. Your contribution to the development of Kuwait is widely respected. Your enterprise and talents are contributing to the prosperity of Kuwait as well as that of yourselves and your families.
Many of you have visited my office to welcome me to Kuwait and I thank you once again for your good wishes. I also appreciate your enthusiastic response in attending the community Coordination Meeting that I convened at the Embassy last evening.
At the outset, I would like to draw your attention to two ongoing innovative insurance schemes, one of which is comparatively new and may not have caught your attention.
As you well know, many Indian nationals are employed in low skilled jobs in Kuwait and new arrivals come here every month to take up jobs in the domestic and private sectors. Such persons generally fall in the ECR (Emigration Clearance Required) category and are required to take emigration clearance before they leave India for jobs abroad. For their benefit, the Government of India had introduced the Pravasi Bharatiya Bima Yojana (PBBY) in 2003, amended in 2006 and 2008. All Indian nationals falling in ECR Category are required to subscribe to the PBBY insurance policy before they are granted Emigration Clearance. The insurance premium in this regard is usually paid by the manpower recruiting agency. Thus, all Indian nationals in ECR Category coming to Kuwait with proper employment contracts have subscribed to the PBBY policy, valid for two or three years, which carries attractive benefits, summarized at the end of this letter. Many Indian workers may not be sensitized to the fact that they have subscribed to the PBBY scheme and I thank one of the Indian associations for drawing this aspect to my attention.
Another important scheme beneficial to Indian nationals coming to Kuwait with proper contracts relates to those new arrivals taking up jobs in the domestic sector, as housemaids, houseboys, cooks and drivers. I am happy to inform that every sponsor intending to recruit an Indian national as a domestic worker is now required to take an insurance policy in the name of the said worker from a designated insurance company, valid for two years. This scheme applies to those domestic workers who have arrived in Kuwait from India after mid-February 2009. It too has attractive features, summarized at the end of this letter.
While I am disseminating the benefits of the PBBY policy and the insurance policy for domestic workers, among Indian nationals in the ECR Category working in Kuwait, I seek your cooperation in also doing so.
Following the signing of a contract with the Kuwait Union of Domestic Labour Offices, a new shelter for Indian housemaids in distress has started functioning in Kuwait this year. The rate of resolution of grievances and repatriation of housemaids at the new shelter has improved substantially. As a result the number of housemaids in distress who are accommodated at the Shelter at any given time has reduced substantially.
The Embassy will soon take further initiatives to provide information/advice to Indian nationals on matters such as their welfare, employment, immigration, labour disputes, etc. I will revert once this happens.
I would also like to mention the free Health Screening and Awareness Camp for Indian workers in Kuwait that was conducted at Abassiya, Kuwait, last month. I laud the Indian doctors, paramedics and association representatives who volunteer their time on a holiday to guide and screen their fellow workers in Kuwait. It is also gratifying that the Indian Doctors Forum would continue the tradition and annually conduct 4 to 6 such free health screening and awareness camps to benefit Indian workers in Kuwait. I also congratulate our doctors for the “School Health Program 2009” that they commenced last month. The health awareness seminar organized last month by one of the Indian women’s associations was another noteworthy development. Good health is the greatest possession a person can have and I hope that such health-related events would firmly place the Indian community amongst the healthiest expatriate communities in Kuwait.
We have earlier this month upgraded the affidavit forms on the Embassy website, so that they can be filled up online. This development was publicised through the media and it seems to have had a positive resonance.
I would now like to turn to the underlying reason for this letter – to inform the Indian community about the new Indian Passport and Visa Service Centres that open shortly in Kuwait.
The increase in the number of Kuwaiti and other citizens traveling to India as a result of our expanding bilateral interaction, as well as the growing numbers of the Indian community in Kuwait, have made it imperative that there be a strengthened response from the Embassy of India in Kuwait. The present Embassy premises in Kuwait were designed for an Indian community of about 100,000; when we took over the Indian Embassy building in 1992, the Indian community in Kuwait had already grown to about 120,000; since then it has increased to 579,000. This has resulted in tremendous pressure on services and space, requiring a matching enhancement in passport, visa and consular services offered by this Embassy. The space available in the Embassy was a complete mismatch and grossly inadequate for addressing the situation. While some improvements in facilities were implemented, the scale of the congestion at the Embassy consular hall arising out of a huge number of daily visitors, was simply overwhelming.
The decision of the Government of India is to outsource passport and visa services in locations where there is a large Indian community. In accordance with it and in view of the concerns listed above, two Indian Passport and Visa Service Centres will open in Kuwait on 27th May 2009. These would be located at Sharq and Fahaheel, at the following addresses:
– Emad Commercial Centre, Basement Floor, Ahmed Al Jaber Street, Sharq, Kuwait City. Telephone: 22470005. Telefax: 22470006.
– Mujamma Unood, 4th floor, Office No. 25-26 Makka Street, Fahaheel, Kuwait. Telephone: 23912352. Telefax: 23912354.
An important concern raised by Indian community members, especially project and household workers, has related to the submission and collection of passports during their working hours, which meant taking half a day’s leave and even resulted in loss of half a day’s wages in some instances. To address this aspect, the timings of submission and delivery of travel documents have been appreciably extended. Thus, the two Indian Passport and Visa Service Centres will be open from 0800 hours to 1200 hours and from 1600 hours to 2000 hours, from Sunday through Thursday [inclusive]. In addition, the Centres would also be kept open on Saturday evenings from 1600 to 2000 hours. They will only be closed on Fridays and major public holidays.
Again, responding to a voiced public need, both Service Centres are located at venues that are regularly served by bus and other public transport. Moreover, considerable free parking space is available in their vicinity. With most offices shutting down in Kuwait by 1600 hrs, there would in fact be a large number of vacant parking spaces available in the evening at both locations.
The website http://www.bls-international.com provides details of both Centres. These Centres will offer several facilitation facilities, such as an information desk; free distribution of passport and visa application forms; filling of forms; photocopying facility; etc. A service fee of KD 1.500 for passport services and KD 5.000 for visa services, per application, will be charged by M/S BLS International Visa Services, besides the standard Passport and Visa fees of the Government of India. To address inevitable teething issues, a consular representative of the Embassy of India, Kuwait, will initially be available at both locations in case of need for any clarification by applicants.
Kindly note that applications for visas on Diplomatic/Official/ Special passports as well as for issue of PIO/OCI cards and Emergency Certificates will continue to be accepted directly at the Embassy of India, Kuwait. All Affidavit/Attestation services will also continue to be provided at Embassy of India, Kuwait. As such, there would still continue to be a large number of visitors to the consular hall of the Embassy, but no where near the overwhelming numbers that have been coming there in the last couple of years.
We hope that the two new Centres will provide the community with better and more efficient passport and visa services. I have addressed a press conference on the subject on May 21, 2009, to spread the word through the media. Moreover, major employers of Indian workers in Kuwait have also been requested to disseminate the same information amongst their Indian employees. The change was also focused upon at the well attended Coordination Meeting with the Indian Community that I hosted last evening. I would request you too to publicise the functioning from 27th May 2009 of the two Indian Passport and Visa Service Centres in Kuwait, so that more people are made aware of the change.
I welcome your sharing this letter with other members of the Indian community in Kuwait and thank you in advance for doing so.
With best wishes,
Ambassador of India