Wed, 03 January 2018
Dr Arathi is the deputy chair of the Non-Resident Indian (NRI) Forum of the Indian state of Karnataka, from which she hails. She says: “The chief minister of Karnataka is the chairman of the NRI Forum, which was started back in 2008. We have implemented a new policy for the welfare of Kanadigans [locals of the state] working abroad.”
Dr Krishna’s role in acquiring a budgetary sanction for and implementing this policy has been pivotal. She says: “We can only estimate that around 800,000 Kanadigans are working abroad, out of which around 400,000 are in the Gulf. So, we are trying to create a database of this information from the rural level up.” One of the forum’s aims is to create a network of non-resident Kanadigans on an interactive cloud-based website that will have a database of Indians and Indian organisations across the globe.
A main objective of the NRI Forum is to connect with citizens living outside India to address their needs and concerns on a sustainable basis. “At the district level, there has been a committee set up with one point of contact to receive NRI grievances and pass them on to us. We want that even the villagers whose relatives are working abroad can reach out to us, in case they face any problems,” says Dr Krishna.
The forum also facilitates a pre-departure orientation given at the district level. “This is especially for blue-collar workers heading for the Gulf,” she explains. “The orientation will give them knowledge about the rules and regulations of the foreign country, and how to conduct themselves there.” Skill development programmes for technical workers such as plumbers and electricians will also be held under the policy’s plans, enabling them to be adequately trained to do their job in a foreign country and draw a salary on a par with others there.
NRIs who wish to do their bit for their community back home can do so through the forum. Dr Krishna says: “They can adopt a district or village, or donate towards infrastructure of an area. We will facilitate the correct channeling of funds, and provide accountability and credibility to donors.”
Another arena she is putting efforts into is getting recruitment agents to register with the government and curb illegal agents who land gullible domestic workers in trouble abroad.
And, at Dr Krishna’s behest, the NRI Forum has introduced many other beneficial initiatives including the NRK card that affords non-residents perks and privileges from banks and insurance companies, as well as providing assistance to those returning to India for good.
There are also plans in the pipeline to implement a marriage and property protection act as well as a separate police contact for NRIs to register their complaints and to get speedy justice for their pending court cases in India.
With several years’ experience at the Indian Embassy in Washington DC, Dr Krishna is familiar with the trials that NRIs face, and she is determined to help. Her work to safeguard their interests has led officials of other states to look to her for guidance on related matters.
On a personal front, she has been an inspiration for young women to forge their own way ahead. Married and relocated to the USA at 19, Dr Krishna continued learning and working, and acquired a master’s degree in public policy from George Mason University. Since returning to India, she has set up the Krishna Foundation to provide educational opportunities for economically disadvantaged children and improve the facilities in rural schools. “The foundation provides them with what they need most to live a better life – multipurpose community halls, uniforms for poor children or a bus to school,” she says. “I have also been meeting a large number of people from all walks of life in the rural belt and will strive to enrich their quality of life.”