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Ambassadors speech at indian Community Reception on 22 February 2016.

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I extend a warm welcome to you and thank you for joining this Reception. Even though I have been meeting with you on a regular basis and I had occasions to invite you earlier, this is the first formal reception being hosted by me since I joined Muscat as Ambassador over six months ago. Indian community has been very generous in welcoming me and extending its support to me and the Embassy. Indian community has also been an important pillar of support in strengthening India’s ties with Oman.

I would like to thank the community and various community organisations, including Indian Social Clubs in Muscat, Salalah and Sohar, for the cooperation extended to the Embassy and for their contribution to the development of close and strategic partnership between India and Oman, in particular in expansion of bilateral trade and mutual investments, promotion of Indian culture in Oman and educational and tourism exchanges. Indian community has also been making immense contribution to the welfare of the community, including through meeting the community’s cultural needs and rendering help to needy Indian workers.

I would like to appreciate the role of community volunteers and social workers, including the charity wing of Indian Social Club, in taking care of Indian workers, particularly in locations beyond the reach of the Embassy. Without their support it would not have been possible to connect to the workers living in far-off places. Indian Schools have also been playing a significant role in meeting the educational needs of the children of Indian community. I would like to express my appreciation for the role of teachers, principals, management committees of Indian Schools and the Board of Directors in providing quality education to our children. The role of community organisations and institutions involved in promoting Indian music, dance, art, languages and literature in Oman is also well-appreciated. They help the community in keeping their socio-cultural traditions alive through educating the young generation of India.

Given the pre-eminence of the Indian community in India’s relations with Oman, the Embassy attaches a high importance to the community’s welfare. We have also been working closely with the community organisations. With a view to reach out to the community, we have been participating in various social and cultural events organised by the community organisations, not only in Muscat but also in other cities and locations in Oman. We have been inviting the community to participate in various cultural, trade promotion and community-related events organised by the Mission. We have allowed various community organisations to hold their events at Embassy Auditorium and Lawns, except the events of commercial nature. We have followed an open door policy in welcoming members of Indian community to the Embassy. We are available to you whenever you would like to meet with us. Please let me know in case you are not able to meet me or any of the officers and staff-members.

Given the importance of the Indian business community in Oman in enhancing our trade and mutual investments with Oman, we have revived the Indian Business Forum. The first meeting of Forum was held in December last year. It received very enthusiastic response from Indian businessmen and professionals present in Oman. We will hold the next meeting of the India Business Forum in a couple of months. We will also support any initiative taken by the Indian business community in Oman to come together on a platform.

The Embassy has taken steps to enhance delivery of passport and consular services by the Service Provider and the Embassy. We value your feedback and I would like to request you to provide your feedback, in particular, on any specific problems faced by you. We will take further steps to address those issues. Please also let us have your suggestions on what else should we do to improve the delivery of these services.

Quick transport of mortal remains of deceased Indians to India has been a matter of concern. We have been working with the concerned Omani authorities towards streamlining the procedure for transport of mortal remains. We monitor various cases closely so as to ensure that in all cases the mortal remains are transported to India within days and in weeks only in rare cases. We have also streamlined the procedure to deal with the workers’ complaints and the problems faced by run-away female workers. All the complaints are now being followed closely with the concerned employers, labour offices, courts and Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Manpower of Oman.

As we felt that the key challenge that we face in Oman is the lack of direct access to thousands of Indian workers in Oman, who are living in various labour camps, we have taken some steps to reach out to them. We have started holding open houses in other cities; we have already held open houses in two cities so far – Jalan and Mudaibi – and we are planning to hold the next open house in March 2016. These open houses are being held in addition to the Open House held regularly in Muscat. We have also been visiting workers’ camps to meet and greet the workers. I take this opportunity to request you to do your utmost, wherever you have an opportunity, to address the issues which impact on the welfare of Indian workers, including their wages and living and working conditions. They are your fellow Indians and will appreciate your benign care to ensure their welfare.

In this context, I would like to mention that MigCall App, which we launched on 01 January 2016, has become quite popular and has been downloaded by over 12000 or so workers so far. They have been using it to contact Indian Embassies and Consulates in the Gulf region. I would like to thank and express my appreciation for the initiative taken by Mr. K Rejimon and Jose Chacko for developing this App. This App is a shining example of the ways in which the Indian community can help the Embassy in addressing various issues which impact on the welfare of Indian workers in Oman.

You are aware of the Indian Government’s commitment to the welfare of Indian communities abroad. Prime Minister has met with the Indian communities in all the countries he has visited. External Affairs Minister has been paying personal attention to the plight of Indians living abroad, including those who directly approach her through her Facebook and twitter accounts. The Government has recently decided to merge the MOIA with the MEA to make delivery of services and reach out to the community efficient and responsive. There should be no apprehension that this merger would lead to less attention to the various Schemes launched by the Government of India for Indian diaspora. It is only an administrative decision and all the schemes and initiatives launched by MOIA are being continued.

As you are also aware, the Government has re-modelled PBD to make it more interactive and productive. Now PBD will be organised in alternate years. So the next PBD will be held in 2017. In 2016, PBD was marked by address of External Affairs Minister to Indian communities abroad through video-linkages. Indian Embassies abroad were mandated to commemorate PBD with communities in their own ways. We had organised a PBD celebration in this Auditorium in which around 175 esteemed members of the community had taken part and we had extensive discussion on a number of topics of concern to the community.

Let me mention a few initiatives taken by the Government for promoting the welfare of the community. Madad portal is an important initiative as it enables any Indian to lodge a complaint electronically, which is raised to the Ministry and the concerned Embassy or the Consulate automatically. This has proved very useful in regular monitoring of the action taken to redress the grievances. E-migrate system is another important initiative to streamline and make transparent the process of recruitment of Indian workers by foreign employers.

The Government has also taken steps to facilitate investment by Indian Diaspora in India. I would like to mention here the National Investment and Infrastructure Fund, which was launched in August last year, the Overseas Indian Facilitation Centre, which is a not for profit public-private initiative for providing investment knowhow and business facilitation services, and the India Development Foundation for Overseas Indians, which is a not for profit trust established to serve as a credible institutional avenue to enable overseas Indians to engage in philanthropy to supplement India’s social and developmental efforts.

The Indian Government and people have high expectations from the Indian community to act as a bridge with the host Governments and people and to contribute to further strengthening of bilateral ties. The Government also expects the community to contribute to the success of various developmental initiatives like ‘Make in India’, ‘Skill India’, ‘Digital India’, ‘Clean India’ and ‘Smart Cities’. All of you have been successful in your businesses and professions and you have been contributing to the growth and development in Oman and in India. We expect you to transform your successes into India’s success. The Embassy will be keen to provide any further information or guidance required by you to facilitate your contribution to India’s developmental aspirations.

To conclude, I would like to reiterate our request for your cooperation in dealing with the issues related to the welfare of the Indian workers, promoting bilateral trade and investments, and enhancing contacts and interactions with Omani people, including cultural, educational and tourism exchanges. I thank you again for joining this reception and for your time and patience. I welcome any comments or observations by you. I believe our meetings should be interactive and I will be happy to answer your questions, if any.

   

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