By Hassan Cheruppa
Former Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy has urged residency law violators in the Indian community to take advantage of the general amnesty announced by the Saudi authorities and leave the country.
He expressed satisfaction over the arrangements made by the Indian embassy and the consulate in facilitating the exit procedures of visa overstayers and violators.
Chandy made the remarks while addressing a press conference in Riyadh on Thursday, the first day of his three-day visit to the Kingdom. He attended several functions and programs in Riyadh and Dammam on Thursday and Friday, and will visit Jeddah on Saturday.
Former Kerala Minister of Culture, Rural Development and Non-Resident Keralite Affairs K.C. Joseph is also accompanying Chandy during the visit.
Chandy held talks with officials of Deportation Center (Tarheel) in Shumaisi and the Indian embassy about the arrangements being made to facilitate the departure of visa violators to leave the Kingdom before ending the 90-day grace period.
“During the talks, the Tarheel officials underscored the need for creating awareness among expatriates about the need to abide by the labor and residency rules and take advantage of the current amnesty period, which would be the last of its kind,” Chandy said while expressing satisfaction over the vast arrangements at the Shumaisi deportation center where special counters have been set up for Indian expatriates to process their exit procedures.
Chandy also visited the Indian embassy and held talks with Hemant Kotalwar, Charge d’ Affaires, and Anil Nautiyal, public information officer for community welfare matters.
Chandy, a senior leader of the Indian National Congress party, urged the Election Commission of India to introduce online voting system for the Indian expatriates in future elections. He said the previous United Democratic Front (UDF) government led by him took serious steps to include expatriates in the voters’ list.
The Kerala leader asked the Indian civil aviation authorities to take measures to stop the practice by airline companies of hiking fares during the summer vacation and the festival seasons. He drew attention to a series of unsuccessful measures taken over the years to resolve the travel-related issues of expatriates.
“We had an ambitious plan to launch the Air Kerala service but unfortunately the conditions set by the federal government stood in the way of realizing this project,” he said.
Norka Consultant Shihab Kottukad, OICC leaders C.M. Kunhi Kumbala, Abdullah Vallanchira, Ismail Erumeli, Shaji Sona, Shaji Kunnikkode, and Shafeeq Kinalur were also present at the press conference.
Chandy and Joseph attended more than two dozen programs and activities on the first two days of their visit to Riyadh and Dammam. They held talks with community leaders, listened to the grievances of blue-collar workers and nurses, and attended the receptions hosted by the Overseas Indian Cultural Congress (OICC). They will attend several programs and receptions in Jeddah on Saturday. All the preparations and arrangements are in place to receive the Keralite leader, according to K.T.A. Muneer, president of the western regional committee of the OICC.