x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Indian government to help pay for UAE crematoriums and social centres

An Indian minister has pledged that his government will help fund crematoriums and social centres at five locations in the UAE.

DUBAI // An Indian welfare fund will use some of its Dh10 million surplus to pay part of the cost of building five crematoriums and social centres.

Vayalar Ravi, the minister for Overseas Indian Affairs, approved the use of a portion of the “under utilised” Indian Community Welfare Fund (ICWF) for building cremation facilities and community centres in Sharjah, Ajman, Umm Al Quwain, Abu Dhabi and Al Ain.

“The [Indian] ambassador had written to me earlier about the fund,” said Mr Ravi yesterday. “Exception will be given and he can spend the money to create this crematorium to help the Indian community.”

The ICWF has collected more than Dh15.3m since its inception in February 2009, in the form of a Dh10 fee that Indian missions have levied on Indian expatriates.

The money was collected for issuing and renewing passports and providing attestation services.

In the past three years, the missions have spent nearly Dh5m from the fund on shelter, emergency medical care, flight tickets, legal expenses and the repatriation of the bodies of overseas Indian workers.

The establishment of the ICWF was part of an initiative in 43 Indian missions across the world to help the diaspora.

Last year, the Indian embassy said the welfare fund was not being fully utilised and it was looking to expand the fund’s scope to assist expatriates in distress.

One of the proposals under study is helping to free 40 female prison inmates.

Yesterday, Mr Ravi said his ministry would give the embassy the authority to spend some of the remaining Dh10.4m on funding cremation grounds and social centres.

Crematoriums are an “inevitable necessity” and the ICWF money will be only a “symbolic contribution”, he said. “This fund has become a very helpful amount under the disposal of ambassadors all over the world. This amount has been contributed by the Indian community also,” he added.

Indian associations at the five proposed sites have been directed to submit detailed expenses for the facilities, after which the government would decide on the amount to be given.

A cremation facility is already under construction in Sharjah after Dr Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed, Ruler of Sharjah, donated 10 acres of land.

The Sharjah Indian Association has appealed to the ICWF for half of the Dh6m cost.

“We have already requested Dh3m,” said Y A Rahim, the president of the Sharjah Indian Association. “We don’t know the exact amount we will be given. We hope to get it at the earliest. It is a long pending demand of the community.”

Mr Ravi also said he would urge the UAE missions in India to deal with illegal moneylending gangs known as blade mafia.

A number of Indian families, reeling under debts, are believed to fall prey to ruthless loan sharks who demand signed blank cheques and hold passports as security against the borrowed money.

“I can only request the ambassadors to look into the issue,” said Mr Ravi.

pkannan@thenational.ae