Pension and insurance scheme for blue-collar Indian workers

Vayalar Ravi, the minister for overseas Indian affairs, will launch the Pension and Life Insurance Fund for Overseas Indian Workers at the Indian consulate in Dubai.

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DUBAI // A new pension and insurance scheme will be launched today for up to two million skilled and semi-skilled Indian expatriate workers.

Vayalar Ravi, the minister for overseas Indian affairs, will formally launch the Pension and Life Insurance Fund for Overseas Indian Workers, or the Mahatma Gandhi Pravasi Suraksha Yojana, at the Indian consulate in Dubai.

About 60 per cent of blue-collar Indian expatriate workers are labourers who earn between Dh600 and Dh1,200 a month and regularly send home up to 70 per cent of their salary.

About 500 Indians in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Al Ain and Fujairah have already signed up as part of a soft launch in July to promote the scheme. Officials hope many more take advantage to help their families in India and to motivate people to open small businesses when they return home.

Amarjeet Yadav, a plumber at a construction company in Dubai, intends to enrol along with his elder brother.

“My family had bank loans that we have paid off and now I’m planning to start saving for this scheme otherwise we never know where our money goes,” said Mr Yadav.

“We have work now but you can never plan enough for the future. We will have to work abroad for another 15 years at least to make enough money before we return. A lot of people are asking about our forms and about the scheme. Once our form process is finished, others will sign and save.”

Under the scheme, Indians who have not attended school beyond grade 10 and who have an “emigration check required” stamp on their passports are eligible for pension benefits, return and resettlement savings and life insurance.

The ministry will also contribute to the pension and resettlement funds.

People can register and open an overseas Indian bank account, to which they can make a remittance any time.

Workers will contribute a minimum of 5,000 Indian rupees (Dh300) a year, with the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs contributing 2,000 rupees for men and 3,000 rupees a year for women, for annual savings between 7,000 and 8,000 rupees.

“I strongly recommend workers join this scheme,” said K V Shamsuddin, chairman of the Pravasi Bandhu Welfare Trust, an organisation that advises expatriates, particularly low-income Indians, about savings.

He also hosts a weekly radio programme on financial planning on which he tells about the scheme.

“If not for compulsory saving these workers will not save anything,” Mr Shamsuddin said.

“Plus, because it is sponsored by the government of India, there will be more confidence to invest in this. I tell them that they must first keep some funds away for their future and try to live within what remains.”

The scheme is the first overseas pension plan and was approved by the Indian government in January, more than a year after its announcement.

It aims to cover five million blue-collar Indian workers in 17 countries.