New Delhi: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Friday said security of Indians living abroad remained high on his government`s agenda and assured a social security fund to help Indians distressed by the economic crisis returning to their country.
"The security of our overseas workers and students is top priority of my government," the prime minister told the annual convention for overseas Indians in remarks that came against the backdrop of a spate of attacks on Indian students in Australia.
He said 40 percent of India`s total remittances of over USD 50 billion came from skilled and semi-skilled overseas Indian workers and that many of them had been badly affected by the economic crisis.
"We are conscious of the need to structure an appropriate return and resettlement fund. We are working on a project to provide a social security safety net for the returning workers," the Prime Minister said.
He said India has been negotiating with the governments of countries with large emigrant Indian populations to improve their welfare and protection, adding that pacts had been signed with Malaysia, Bahrain and Qatar in this regard.
"We also signed social security agreements last year with Switzerland, Luxembourg and the Netherlands and are now negotiating such agreements with a number of other countries," he said.
This apart, the Prime Minister added, Indian Community Welfare Funds have also been established in 18 countries for providing food, shelter, repatriation assistance and emergency relief to overseas Indians in distress.
Some 1,500 delegates from 50-plus countries are attending the convention, called the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, which the country hosts every year to connect with its 25 million diaspora in 130 countries.