The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Insurance for Gulf workers soon

New Delhi, June 1: Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s compulsory insurance scheme for Indian workers in the Gulf countries is likely to be launched in July.

The new insurance scheme will be named ‘pravasi bhartiya bima yojna’ and will be available to Indian workers going to the Gulf and the south-east Asian countries. The ministry of external affairs and the labour ministry are consulting each other before giving a final shape to the insurance scheme.

“By and large, the insurance plan has been formalised. The file has gone for approval to the finance department within our ministry. It is expected to come through soon,” said a senior official in the labour ministry.

Sources say that to start with the insurance scheme will be available for a maximum period of two years to workers in the age group of 18-60 years. The insured will have to pay a premium of Rs 750 for a one-year cover and Rs 1,500 for a two- year cover. The scheme has been devised keeping in mind the fact that most workers go abroad on two-year contracts. However, in case a worker opts for a contract that exceeds two years, he will be entitled to renew his cover in order to cover the entire work period.

In 2002, a total of 3.68 lakh workers were granted emigration clearance by eight offices of the protectorate of emigrants to take up employment abroad on contractual basis. The outflow of manpower from India has risen from 1.99 lakh workers in 1999 to 3.68 lakh workers in 2002.

Under the scheme, the insurance firm will pay a sum Rs 2 lakh to the worker in the event of accidental death or “permanent total disablement”. The insurer will also bear the repatriation or transportation expenses incurred due to accidental death or permanent disability of the worker, including the airfare for an accompanying person.

The scheme provides that an airfare cost of a maximum of Rs 50,000 or actuals (whichever is lower) for an accompanying person will be considered if the insured is medically and physically unfit to travel alone.

In addition, hospitalisation expenses of up to Rs 50,000 will be given for accidental injuries, sickness or ailments occurring during the period of cover. This will be borne by the insurer provided the treatment is taken in India only.

Sources in the labour ministry say the scheme is being drawn up on the basis of proposals submitted by New India Assurance, ICICI Lombard General Insurance and Bajaj Allianz General Insurance. While New India is a public sector company the other two are private firms.

Sources said the insurers are reluctant to provide death or disablement cover arising out of war, invasion, act of foreign enemy, hostilities, civil war etc. This assumes significance in view of the recent Iraq war which has apparently scared insurers as their liabilities could shoot up which, in turn, could even lead to bankruptcy.

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