Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Friday criticised the Centre’s ‘Swades Skill Card’ programme, launched to support expatriates returning to the country, and said it did not make any impact among the community even two years after its announcement. The Marxist veteran also accused the BJP-led union government of ignoring his government’s demand of granting a package worth Rs 2,000 crore for the expatriates who had returned to the southern state after losing their job due to COVID pandemic.
The Centre was not even bothered to respond to the state’s request, he said during his speech at the third edition of the Loka Kerala Sabha, a two-day conference inaugurated by Governor Arif Mohammed Khan here on Thursday. As doctors advised him rest due to ill health, Industries Minister P Rajeev read out Vijayan’s speech during the function, which is being attended by invited guests. He said the SWADES (Skilled Workers Arrival Database for Employment Support) was the lone programme announced by the Centre to support the returning expatriates.
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“But it seems that the programme has failed to make any serious impact even two years after its announcement,” Vijayan said. The Chief Minister, however, claimed that his government has always recognised the significance of the expatriate community and considered them as an inevitable part of the state’s social life. A total of 351 delegates, including over 180 representatives from 65 foreign countries, are taking part in the third edition of the Loka Kerala Sabha, an ambitious initiative of the Vijayan government envisaged as a convention of non-resident Keralites.
The Congress-led UDF on Thursday boycotted the event held here citing the recent alleged police atrocities against its workers for protesting against Vijayan in view of the allegations made against him by Swapna Suresh, a key accused in the gold smuggling through diplomatic bags case. Another reason cited by the UDF for avoiding the Loka Kerala Sabha was lack of response from the government to the queries and suggestions of the Leader of Opposition in the state Assembly V D Satheesan regarding the benefits, if any, to expatriates from the last two meetings of the sabha held in 2018 and 2020.
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