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Senior Congress Legislator and former State Minister for Diaspora K. C. Joseph on Friday said Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has badly let down the Kerala diaspora on all fronts.

Joseph, who headed the diaspora ministry for five years from 2011-16 told IANS that all what Vijayan has done is nothing but rhetoric and when the time came to really act, Vijayan has badly faltered, especially the way the diaspora was being handled when the pandemic struck.

“A few days back Vijayan had announced a ‘Dream Kerala’ project for the returning diaspora. If one looks back, a few years ago Vijayan held the much-publicised Loka Kerala Sabha (LKS), first in 2018 and then its second edition earlier this year and the only thing that happened was a grandiose event, and nothing has happened after that,” said Joseph.

“During the Assembly session held in May 2019, in reply to the question about the follow up of the first edition of the LKS, I had received a few replies. I was surprised in the latest ‘Dream Kerala’ project announced just a few days back, the same thing has been repeated,” said 74-year-old Joseph, who has been representing the Irikkur Assembly constituency in the Kannur district since 1982.

Joseph pointed out that the Norka-Roots department, set up for the diaspora has been relegated to just a web portal and the only job they did during the pandemic time was to open a portal, where all our diaspora, who wished to return from abroad, had to register.

“Just look into the budget allocation for them. Though it’s about a few crores, still there was funds at their disposal which they could have used to provide subsidy to our people who had to return after they lost their jobs, to buy their tickets and even provide a basic subsistence allowance. But nothing has been done and at one point, Vijayan even announced the diaspora might have to bear the expenses for their mandatory isolation, after they return,” added Joseph.

From May 7 till Thursday, over 900 flights and three ships have brought over 1.50 lakh people from abroad. Chief Minister Vijayan himself has pointed out that 52 per cent of the diaspora returnees have lost their jobs.

For close to four decades, the Kerala diaspora has been the mainstay of the state economy and the diaspora deposits in Kerala banks is around 1,69,944 crores.

‘Dream Kerala’ envisages projects to help rehabilitate the returning diaspora. For these, ideas are being sought and an expert committee will review the various ideas and those which are selected will be put for implementation.

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