New Delhi: To ease the legal troubles and logistical hassles of families of Indians who die in the Gulf countries, India has funded half of the $1.64-million funeral home project of the Indian community living in Sharjah following a plea made to Minister of Overseas Indian Affairs Vayalar Ravi.

The Indian government’s share in the project comes to about $820,000 and the funds have been released for the project through the Indian Community Welfare Fund (ICWF).

“There is going to be a funeral place in Sharjah (third largest city in the United Arab Emirates) for which I also paid money. It is a funeral ground for Indians from all religions. It is an Indian community project there. It is a good thing,” Ravi told IANS in an interview.

“They asked me for some financial help and I paid 50 per cent. They have started work and we have already paid the money,” he said at his Akbar Bhavan office here.

The ICWF is maintained by Indian embassies and consulates to assist distressed Indians in their host countries and the budgetary allocations for the fund are made by the Ministry of Overseas Indian affairs (MOIA).

In September Ravi had expanded the scope of the ICWF to cover penalties in case of overstay or detention, apart from financial support to set up community centres in host countries.
The funeral centre at Sharjah is coming up at a cost of Emirati Dirham (Dh) six million, of which Dh3 million has been paid from the ICWF to the Indian Association Sharjah, which is executing the project. The work on the project has already begun.

The Indian community in the UAE records just over 1,200 deaths annually. But families of the dead find it difficult to bring the body back to India due to legal issues involved and the high cost of air travel. In view of these hassles, the Indian community has been seeking help from the government in New Delhi to prevail upon the Gulf nations to allow them to hold the funeral in the host nations.

The MOIA has also recently given funds for upgrading an existing funeral centre at Abu Dhabi, the second largest city in the UAE. India had in April requested the UAE to provide land for a funeral home for Indians residing in that country when their external affairs ministers met in New Delhi for bilateral talks.

The Indian government also plans to make a similar plea to other governments in the Gulf region, where around six million Indian citizens live and work.

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