Saturday, May 15, 2010

Pension scheme launched for non-resident Keralites

Pension scheme launched for non-resident Keralites
By BEGENA P PRADEEP, Posted on » Saturday, May 15, 2010

BAHRAIN'S Keralite community is being urged to join a government-backed pension fund introduced for expatriates.

People need to pay a fixed premium every month to the India-based Kerala Pravasi Kshemanidhi Board (Kerala Expatriate Welfare Board) to receive a pension from the government when they reach 60.

The Bahrain Prathibha Association is spearheading an awareness campaign in Bahrain and held an interactive session with board chairman T K Hamza at the Bahrain Keraleeya Samajam, Segaiya.

"This scheme is open only for expatriate Keralites and is run by the Kerala government," said Mr Hamza who is also a former MP.

"People need to pay a fixed premium every month in order to receive a pension from the government when the he or she turns 60.

"Members can also avail a loan for a nominal rate of interest from this amount to build a house, for their daughters' marriage or (medical) treatment.

"Though the registration fee is a fixed Rs200 (BD1.7) for all, the receivable pension amount varies according to the category they belong to, based on whether the person is living outside Kerala but in India, outside India or has returned after working outside Kerala."

Mr Hamza said the monthly premium for those living outside India was Rs300 (BD2.500) and Rs100 (800fils) for others.

"This scheme is definitely reliable because it is government-run and any member who has paid their premium for five years and above will become eligible to get a pension when they reach 60," he said.

"All they need to do is fill the application form and send it to their office in Kerala, along with a passport-size photo and copies of their passport including the page with the visa stamped on it and a demand draft of Rs200.

"People can also co-ordinate with a registered association or club in Bahrain who can co-ordinate and send the forms of many people.

"As proof of their membership with the scheme, they will receive an identity card with their picture on it."

Bahrain Prathibha president P T Narayanan said the group was visiting labour camps across Bahrain to educate people about the benefits of the scheme.

"We have also met with the heads of various associations who have pledged their support," he said.

Application forms are available at Bahrain Financing Company branches and the Bahrain Prathibha office in Salmaniya.

The GDN reported in March that only five per cent of Indian expatriates working in Bahrain and the Gulf would be able to lead a comfortable life if they were forced to return home, according to a regional study by the Pravasi Bandhu Welfare Trust (PBWT).

The results reflected the extravagant lifestyles of their families who they send money to and the fact they do not save the money received, said chairman K V Shamsudeen.

He warned the problem was putting more pressure on low- and middle-income Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) and said many, who had worked abroad for decades, were returning home with no resources to look after their families.

Only two per cent of families were found to be saving from their remittances and though 98pc agreed the lifestyle of their families had improved, only 5pc felt they could lead a comfortable life if they go back to permanently settle in India.

Around five million NRIs work in the Gulf, 60pc of whom are from Kerala with the majority belonging to middle- or low-income groups.

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