New York: Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Saturday said the state government attaches great importance to the New York Regional Conference of the Loka Kerala Sabha.
Addressing delegates at the inaugural ceremony of the Loka Kerala Sabha's general assembly here, Pinarayi Vijayan said: "A proper system is in place to implement the suggestions made in the previous conclaves. The Pravasi Mithram portal has been implemented for expatriates to raise complaints related to the Revenue Department. An employment exchange is also in place for returning expatriates. Returnees and those currently abroad can register on the portal."
He said a digital portal for the collection of data with regard to non-residents is in the final phase of its development. The portal is being developed by Norka Roots in association with the Kerala University of Digital Sciences, Innovation and Technology.
A comprehensive insurance system for expatriates is also being developed and is in the final stage, he added.
"The Loka Kerala Sabha was formed in the context of the growth of 'Kochu Kerala' (Small Kerala) to 'Loka Kerala' (Global Kerala). Through this conclave, an official system is in place for Keralites all over the world and the Government of Kerala to communicate with each other and cooperate in areas of common interest.
"The Malayali diaspora across the world has felt the impact of the Loka Kerala Sabha, and through it of the Kerala Government, in distressful times, be it natural calamities, epidemics, wars or riots," said the chief minister.
He also said the state government has submitted 11 issues discussed in the previous conferences for the consideration of the Central government.
Further laying out the schemes and projects implemented by the state government for the welfare of expatriates, he said: "Over 6,600 enterprises have been started through NDPREM (Norka Department Project for Returned Emigrants), a major rehabilitation scheme to ensure a dignified life for returning expats. The 'Pravasi Bhadratha' scheme was launched for NRKs who lost their jobs during the Covid-19 pandemic."
Subsidised loans were provided through Kudumbashree and banks. Around 14,166 enterprises were started in the last two years. In the past seven years, Rs 151 crore has been spent on over 24,600 returnee expats facing physical and financial constraints.
"The Norka Institute of Foreign Languages started operations in March 2023 to provide training in various foreign languages to make recruitment plans more efficient. A Norka Business Facilitation Centre has been set up to provide necessary facilities for expats to launch businesses in Kerala. At present, 136 enterprises have started through the facilitation centre. Currently, 85 entrepreneurs are being supported," said the chief minister.
'Attempts being made to spread unfounded lies about conference'
The chief minister strongly reacted to the criticism raised against the conference. "What kind of nepotism has happened at the conference? Is this the first time the Loka Kerala Sabha is getting sponsorship? Some have deliberately tried to create a controversy surrounding the conference. Attempts are being made to spread unfounded lies. The Loka Kerala Sabha is run by people belonging to their respective fields," said the chief minister.
He further said he is not aware of the lakhs spent by those around him.
The American Regional Conference of the Loka Kerala Sabha was marred by controversy after allegations cropped up that money was being charged from expatriates to stand or sit close to Pinarayi Vijayan during the three-day programme.
Around 250 delegates from different countries will attend the conference.
Apart from the chief minister, Speaker A N Shamseer, diamond sponsor and Fokana president Dr Babu Stephen, Norka Roots director and chief coordinator of the Regional Conference Dr M Anirudhan will address the 'Pravasi Sangamam' or the general assembly.