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Kerala to create a first-of-its-kind directory on its diaspora

Thiruvananthapuram: Kerala will soon get a directory to enable it connect better with its two million-strong diaspora that annually remits home a staggering Rs.75,000 crore ($12 billion). It's probably the first-such exercise in the country.

"The need for such a directory has been on the cards for long but with the recent evacuation of Kerala nurses from Iraq and Libya carried out by the combined action of the state and the Centre has come as a blessing in disguise for going ahead with the diaspora directory, because none knows how many Keralites are there in each country," P.Sudeep, CEO of Roots-Norka, the Kerala government agency that looks after the welfare of the state's diaspora, told IANS in an interview.

All the arrangements are in place for starting the statistical exercise, which is basically meant to find out how many Keralites are in which country. It is estimated that 90 percent of the Malayalee diaspora is in the Middle East.

Despite the Kerala economy being propped up from the mid-1970s through diaspora remittances, the only studies that have been made are by the capital city-based Centre for Development Studies.

In economic terms, diaspora remittances account for 1.6 times the revenue receipts of the Kerala government, 6.2 times what the state gets from the centre as revenue transfer, and is more than twice the government's annual expenditure. In other words, it can meet 60 percent of the state's public debt.

Sudeep said the diaspora directory would be prepared through online registration only.

"For this we will seek the help of all the Kerala diaspora organisations that are there abroad and wherever people from our state work. People can either register online or if people do not have access to computers can do it from the office of the Kerala organisations. It would have only basic information and nothing in detail would be asked. This is just a statistical exercise for knowing the number of people from Kerala in every country," Sudeep told IANS.

The officials are now planning a grand inauguration of the online registration and are trying to rope in important people who will simultaneously register from various countries.

"The Onam season (September) is round the corner and if everything falls in place, the inauguration is likely to take place at that time," Sudeep added.

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