Overseas affairs ministry to set up support system

Overseas affairs ministry to set up support system
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First Published: Fri, May 29 2009. 09 14 PM IST
Updated: Fri, May 29 2009. 09 14 PM IST
New Delhi: In the wake of increasing incidents of attacks on Indian students abroad, the ministry of overseas Indian affairs plans to set up an institutional mechanism to enable the country’s overseas missions to respond to such incidents on a real-time basis as well as to provide support services to students.
“There should be a permanent solution to these types of incidents. There is an urgent need for an institutional response to this,” said Vayalar Ravi, who took charge of the ministry on Friday.
There were three incidents of attacks on Indian students in Australia in quick succession, with the first being reported on 9 May. Sravan Kumar Theerthala, a 25-year-old from Andhra Pradesh, who was assaulted on Sunday in Melbourne along with three other students, is battling for his life. Another Indian student, Baljinder Singh, was robbed and stabbed in Melbourne on Monday.
A worried ministry of external affairs on Friday summoned Australian high commissioner John McCarthy to convey its concerns.
According to an official of the overseas affairs ministry, who did not want to be identified, the ministry has proposed that missions in countries with significant numbers of Indian students could be asked to open 24x7 helpline services.
It has also suggested that the students going abroad register themselves with the Overseas Indian Facilitation Centre from where the missions can collect adequate details about them.
“Right now, many missions do not have a picture over how many Indian students are there in the respective countries,” the official pointed out.
If the ministry has its way, a separate budget could be made to provide country-specific group health insurance cover as an incentive for students to register their names.
It is estimated that there are at least 80,000 Indian students in US colleges and 90,000 or more in Australia.
The ministry is also contemplating awareness programmes for the students and their families over safety and security in respective countries and to provide helplines and counselling for them.
While missions can organize regular city-wise open house meetings, the non-resident Indian community in the respective countries could provide moral support to the students, the ministry has suggested.
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First Published: Fri, May 29 2009. 09 14 PM IST