New Delhi: The government has decided to set up shelter homes for Indian women in distress in 17 countries, most of which are in labour intensive Gulf region.
Overseas Indian Affairs Minister Vayalar Ravi, replying to a question in Lok Sabha, said his ministry has issued instruction to the heads of missions of 17 Emigration Check Required (ECR) countries for setting up of the shelter homes.
As per the Emigration Act 1983, Emigration Check Required (ECR) categories of Indian passport holders need to obtain "Emigration Clearance" from the office of Protector of Emigrants (POE) for going to 17 countries.
The countries where ECR is mandatory include United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, Kuwait, Bahrain, Libya, Malaysia, Jordan, Yemen, Sudan, Brunei, Afghanistan, Syria, Indonesia, Lebanon and Thailand.
He said the government has been providing legal assistance to overseas Indian workers in "deserving cases" through the Indian Community Welfare Fund (ICWF), which has been set up in all Indian missions abroad.
Ravi said a total of 19,179 Indians have benefited from the ICWF in the last three years. He said a total of Rs 21.70 crore have been spent by the missions from the fund so far.
The mission in United Arab Emirates spent a maximum of Rs 6.94 crore while providing assistance in 3,497 cases followed by spending of Rs 3.52 crore by the mission in Bahrain.
Replying to a question on number of NRIs in foreign countries, Ravi said informal estimates collected since 2010 indicated the figure to be around one crore.
"This does not include Persons of Indian Origin (PIOs) who have acquired citizenship of foreign countries," he said.
Last week, the Standing Committee on External Affairs, in a report had criticised the Overseas Indian Affairs Ministry for failing to collect exact figure about number of Indian diaspora living in foreign countries.
"It is unfortunate to observe that the Ministry created for handling all the matters relating to Overseas Indians has no authentic data of its own and they have to depend upon estimates projected in international documents," it had said.