The Union Cabinet on Thursday approved the setting up of the Indian Community Welfare Fund (ICWF) in 18 Indian missions to help overseas Indians in times of distress by providing lodging, medical care, air passage, legal assistance in deserving cases and for airlifting bodies when necessary.
The fund will have a budgetary support of Rs. 480 lakh for three years and resources can also be mobilized by collecting donations from the local Indian community and by charging cess on consular services — like levying a service charge of Rs.100 in local currency for passports, visas, attestation etc.
About 50 lakh Indians are working abroad, 90 per cent of them in the Gulf. The ICWF will be created in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, Kuwait, Bahrain, Libya, Malaysia, Jordan, Yemen, Sudan, Afghanistan, Indonesia, Syria, Lebanon, Thailand, Maldives and Iraq.
The ICWF was aimed at assisting distressed Indian workers in household and domestic sectors and unskilled laborers and providing emergency medical care/air passage to stranded workers, Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni said. Indian workers duped by middlemen in host countries, runaway housemaids, accident victims, deserted spouses of overseas Indians or undocumented Indian workers in need of emergency assistance or any other Indian citizens in distress abroad would also be assisted.
A maximum of Rs.15 lakh worth of funds per annum would be created in seven missions in Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar, Kuwait, UAE, Bahrain and Malaysia, Rs.5 lakh each would be created in the 11 missions in other countries.