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Kerala Chief Minister to take up NRI voting rights with centre

Dubai, April 30, 2005

:Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy Saturday promised to take up the issue of voting rights of Gulf NRIs along with that of labourers' welfare with the Indian government.

The chief minister, who came to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Friday on the inaugural flight of the Air-India Express, said the state government would take up these issues with the centre as they required constitutional amendment.

Addressing a meeting of NRIs in Dubai Saturday, Chandy said there were three main issues concerning Indians in the UAE, of whom a major chunk came form Kerala.

On his first visit to the UAE after becoming chief minister, Chandy also plans to meet investors here. He is the first Kerala chief minister to visit the UAE in seven years.

"The issue of a budget airline flying between India and the UAE, one of the long-standing demands of NRIs from Kerala, has been sorted out with the start of the Air-India Express," he said.

The state government has not given up a plan to start a private airline with services between Gulf and Kerala.

"The issue of starting a private airline is still on the agenda," said Chandy, adding that more players bring out competition that will help the consumers. But he did not give any assurance on the time frame for starting the airline.

On the issue of labourers' welfare, the chief minister said he has taken it up with the UAE authorities who have assured him that the matter will be looked into.

"There were several aspects of the problem like non-payment of wages as well as being duped by contactors back in India, " he said.

During his stay in Dubai, Chandy also visited labour camps for a first-hand knowledge of the conditions there.

Earlier, Air-India Express, the budget airline floated by Air-India, made its debut flights with the first flight landing in Abu Dhabi Friday.

The inaugural flight included a high-level delegation of central Minister for Civil Aviation Praful Patel and the Kerala chief minister.

At a function in Abu Dhabi, Patel said Air-India is embarking on new horizons with plans to acquire a new fleet of aircraft.

Air-India Express has obtained clearance for operations in Muscat where the airline will commence operations May 3. The airline's fares will be 30 percent lower than market rates, he added.

Shaikh Ahmad Bin Saif Al Nahyan, chairman of the Abu Dhabi Civil Aviation Department, had presided over the formal inaugural ceremony. (IANS)

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