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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - By Hassan Cheruppa
JEDDAH — In the biggest ever repatriation in its history, India’s diplomatic mission in Saudi Arabia has so far repatriated over 87,000 most distressing Indians stranded by coronavirus pandemic on board 480 flights, according to Ambassador Dr. Ausaf Sayeed.
Addressing a virtual session of Indian media persons and community members on the occasion of the country’s Independence Day on Saturday, the envoy said that there are around 75,000 Indians awaiting repatriation and they will be sent back on board flights of Vande Bharat Mission (VBM), which is currently in its fifth phase, as well as on chartered flights. Out of the repatriated Indians, 36,000 were workers who had lost their jobs, he pointed out.
Dr. Sayeed said a total of 613 Indians died of coronavirus and these include 155 people from Kerala, 126 from Uttar Pradesh and 62 from Telengana. He offered condolences and sympathies to the bereaved family members of the deceased. The ambassador noted that repatriation is a complex process involving a lot of coordination between the governments of Saudi Arabia and India as well as several state governments, civil aviation authorities and agencies.
“In the last one and a half months, we had repatriated 549 Indians with expired iqamas and 3,032 people who were reported huroob (runaway workers) after completing their travel procedures,” he said.
Dr. Sayeed said that the government of India is keen on taking advantage of the professional skill of the Gulf returnees. The federal government has launched a skill-mapping exercise of the citizens returning to the country under the VBM. The initiative, titled SWADES (Skilled workers arrival database for employment support), which is being undertaken jointly by the ministries of skill development & entrepreneurship, civil aviation and external affairs, aims to create a database of qualified citizens so as to tap their skill sets and experience to fulfill the demands of Indian and foreign companies.
“Since large number of Indian nationals are going back to different states, their talent needs to be utilized for the development of the country and their own states. The profession-wise data of technically qualified expatriates is being generated in order to pass on to state governments who will either employ them or share the data with the professional private employers so that these talents do not waste away until the time when the condition becomes conducive for them to come back to Gulf countries,” Dr. Sayeed said.
The ambassador urged all Indians to gear up to overcome the tough situation brought about by the pandemic. Despite the pandemic, India continued to maintain the supply chain to the Kingdom with an uninterrupted supply of food and medicine. “I have been working very closely with various chambers of commerce and industry in India to explore the opened up opportunities, especially the new opportunities brought about by the pandemic. India has emerged as the second largest trading partner of Saudi Arabia with an increase of 13 percent in trade.”
India provides exceptional investment opportunities for Saudis in several key sectors such as agriculture, IT, health, education, infrastructure and defense, he said while noting that India can be a major beneficiary of the Kingdom’s move to privatize key sectors of health, education and water.
Scholarship for poor students, co-education up to class 5
Dr. Sayeed, who is patron of international Indian schools, announced introduction of school scholarship scheme for economically weaker students, effective from Sept. 1. “Fifty percent of fee waiver will be given to two percent of students in each class so as to provide partial relief to some parents in the lower financial strata and who are desperately need help. Such parents can apply for fee waiver to their concerned school authorities,” he said.
All community schools have been instructed to be in full readiness for post COVID-19 reopening with due precautions in compliance of the directives of the Kingdom, Dr. Sayeed said, noting that co-education classes will be expanded from class three to five from next academic year onwards. The system is currently being followed from LKG to class 2. He also stated that the Jubail Indian School has been chosen as SAT exam center and the exam will be held on Sept. 27.
The ambassador also announced plans to introduce highly professional and uniform distance education program, titled Taaleem, putting an end to different methods of online education followed currently by the Indian community schools. “This program will be implemented on an experimental basis for three months and would continue if it was found viable and useful. It aims to provide quality e-platform, which will provide suitable interface for teachers, parents, and career guides,” he said, adding that this will be covered under the tuition fee and no extra cost will be charged from parents.
According to the envoy, a new Unified Service Rules (USR) is being formulated for all schools and it is most likely to be implemented from Sept. 1. This would bring about parity in all schools as far administrative, academic and financial matters are concerned. Roles of different entities like the higher board and managing committee will be clearly defined and accountability will be fixed to all of them.
If it was found that decisions were not taken in the interests of school, especially in financial matters, they can be accounted for, he said, adding, that the revamped bodies of Saudi India Business Network, India Saudi Medical Forum, and Indian Education Forum will be formed within a month.
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