The State Government has decided to constitute “Loka Kerala Sabha” (LKS)and hold its first meeting at Thiruvananthapuram on January 12 and 13. This article is aimed at clarifying on the constitution, objectives and importance of the LKS. Kerala has been able to evolve various models that were copied by the Centre as well as very many States. It was during the regime of the Late E K Nayanar that Kerala had set up a department for the Non-Residents, the first ever in India, in 1990. Later, similar departments were established by the Centre and few otherexpatriate-strong State Governments. The Loka Kerala Sabha would be yet another initiative which could be emulated by the Centre as well as other expatriate-prominent States.

The realization of Kerala’s growth story spreading beyond the State borders to other States & Union Territories and world over has been the inspiration behind in formulating LKS. According to a recent survey, Kerala’s immigrant population is 31 lakhs. Out of this, seven lakhs are in India and 24 lakhs reside outside India. In fact, the figure of 31 lakhs could only be a conventional estimation. The figure has been arrived at a survey conducted in 10,000 select houses in Kerala.  It is unlikely that details about those who stay outside Kerala with family are included in the survey. Also,that the relatives of those families staying outside Kerala for generations may not be able to give details of those non-resident Keralites. As an accurate appraisal is out of question, a guestimate could approximately about half-a-crore. The number of Non-Resident Keralites who have migrated back to Kerala is about 16.4 lakhs.  The importance of migration by Keralites can be understood from a total scenario of the migrated population, their families and those who had returned home.

An important speciality of migrants from Kerala is their close rapport with their birthplace. Most majority of these expatriates retain their Indian citizenship. Even those who had lost their Indian citizenship but do maintain their close association with their homeland Kerala. The unique speciality that distinctively characterises the Keralites are their propensity to team up. Lots of associations of distinct kinds are active among the Kerala immigrants. In one way, these associations are cradles of Kerala culture. The `outside Kerala’ speak Malayalam, teach Malayalam, enjoy, create & spread Malayalam arts & literature. It would not be of any exaggeration to say Malayalees live not only within Kerala but in across the globe, wherever they had migrated and live. If migration meant to be long-distance travel and solitude-living in olden days, the situation is totally different now. The distance is not at all a barrier for the migrants to keep in touch with their homeland. The revolution in the science & technology vertical had annulled the distances. Today the migrants can fully participate in all day-to-day social life of their homeland even as they live outside Kerala.

These aspects are not confined to Kerala alone. We are living in an era where the life and culture go borderless. Cultures have been growing and spreading beyond its geographically identified base. Compared to other states, Kerala is much ahead in the contemporary trend of spreading its culture beyond its original borders. Kerala is among places across the globe where the relative importance of migration stood high. This is the background why Kerala is said to be not only a geography within its boundaries but a culture that is being spread worldwide. Even as we say that Kerala is being transformed as “LokaKeralam”, there has been no system in place as to facilitate communication and to ensure cooperation between the Keralites living in different countries and territories aimed at keeping the worldwide-Kerala united. The supreme goal of LKS is to overcome this shortcoming.

The strength of the LKS would be 351. The Kerala MLAs and MPs from Kerala would be members of the LKS. The Kerala Government would nominate 178 Non-Resident Keralites, as representatives of Indian-citizen-Keralites. Among these, 42 nominations would be from people living in other states in India, 100 representatives from abroad, six persons from expatriates returned and 30 nominees would be eminent personalities from different walks of life. The LKS would be a permanent body. New members would replace those who complete their term. The Sabha would hold its meeting atleast once in two years.

The LKS envisages creating a common platform for all the Keralites from across - from within the State, other States, Union Territories and outside India. The encouragement of togetherness and mutual co-operation of the Keralites world over and to work for the promotion and progressive enrichment of Kerala culture are the prime objectives of the Sabha. The LKS would also play a vital role in ensuring the meaningful participation of the Keralites outside the State in taking decisions on the civil society, social and economic development of Kerala. Hence, the LKS would be scripting a new chapter in the democratic history of Kerala. The Sabha would not have any narrow mindedness based on language or geography but would be upholding the universal values like freedom, democracy, social justice and secularism. The LKS would also discuss and bring the commonly accepted decisions besides recommend compassionate measures on topics of interest to the Keralites world over to the attention of the central and state Government.

It is estimated that the remittances by the non-resident Keralites amount to 30 percent of the gross production of Kerala. India is the world topper in foreign remittance by its non-resident citizens. Though the contribution by expatriates in the nation building are highly valuable, they pay a high price for it. The innumerable snags one suffers, right from the preparation stage for migration and extending upto rehabilitation after returning, viz. treachery, cheating, exploitation, denial of rights besides disgrace, are not something easy to describe. So also, are the social security and welfare of the returnees. The LKS will attract the attention of the State and Central Governments, the society and the international agencies to these issues and seek resolutions. The Sabha will also strive and suggest appropriate changes in the law and legislation, international treaties and administrative system.

The expatriates are also medium and channels for the exchange of knowledge, technical knowhow, skills, tastes, goods, services and capital.  Studies have also proved that expatriates also facilitated the export of goods, services and capital from their homeland. This is cent percent true in the case of Kerala. The expatriates from Kerala were able to create a vibrant market for products and services abroad. It is also noticeable that expatriates facilitate investments and entrepreneurship abroad. They also extend a helping hand for the NexGen to enter the international job market.

The other side of the coin is that the expatriates also act as medium for bringing in to Kerala the state-of-the-art information, ideas, technology, goods, services and capital that appear on the universal arena.

World is an opening to opportunities. The expatriates act as a medium to help utilise the vast possibilities outside. However, we have not been able to execute a planned effort as to effectively utilise these opportunities. Even as the issues of expatriates are responsibly addressed, there need be a conscious effort to make use of the possibilities of expatriation. The policies and procedures of the LKS are being charted out in such a way as to take over both these two important assignments. LKS is expected to discuss in detail important issues and take firm decisions and not just confine to holding a meeting and disbursing after celebrations. Apart from plenary sessions, there would also be theme-based conferences. Besides delegates from outside Kerala, officials and ministers of concerned subjects would participate in the deliberations.

The Keralites - both inside Kerala and Kerala outside would proactively take up the call of the first conference of the Sabha. The Kerala Government and the Secretariat of the Sabha is committed to follow up and execute all the decisions taken in the conference.  The second conference, to be held in two years, would evaluate the progress of the decisions taken at the first conference. 

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