Anwar Naha, president of Dubai KMCC, believes that philanthropy should be able to bring about a positive change in the life of the beneficiary and ultimately make him self-sustainable. ‘It should aim at creating a social change of dignity for the individual’ says Naha as he shares his vision of “reform-oriented social change” with Mujeeb Jaihoon. Photo by Firoze Edassery
KMCC: Powerhouse of Welfare Activism
Many believe life on earth began as a form of expatriation from our original home in Paradise. Civilizations flourished across the planet as men and women traveled to new lands, crossing mountains and seas. There are two quintessential pillars for the continuity of any community, be it native or expatriate. Firstly the Culture it upholds and secondly the Compassion it fosters among its brethren and to outsiders.
The Kerala Muslim Cultural Centre (KMCC), a voluntary organisation of Indian expatriates in the United Arab Emirates, has established itself as a powerhouse for unparalleled sustainable welfare activism and cultural renaissance. With units across the country, KMCC is today a household name among the Indian community, especially the Keralites who form the majority of Indians in UAE, for all things philanthropy and social service. Especially notable is the Dubai KMCC which has redefined the role of community organizations and has qualified to be a benchmark for humanitarian initiatives.
Initially conceived as a gathering of group of individuals for mutual cooperation, the Dubai KMCC was formed during the late seventies as Chandrika Readers’ Forum. (Chandrika is the party paper in Malayalam of the Indian Union Muslim League in India). It was later rebranded to Kerala Muslim Cultural Center, popularly referred to as the overseas wing of the Party’s well-wishers across the globe.
Throughout the four-decades old strong presence in the Indian expatriate welfare scene in UAE, Dubai KMCC has evolved much, both vertically and horizontally, in serving and supporting the needy and poor. Yet, it remains firmly aligned to the democratic and secular credentials of its parent organization in Kerala.
Dubai KMCC today attracts community members of all clusters, including businessmen, professionals and students. Lawyers and teachers empower its workshops. Doctors and counselors rush to heal the physical and mental health of the community. Business magnates boldly endorse its welfare programs. Dubai KMCC loyally fulfils its two-fold mission – to intervene in expatriate issues while simultaneously supporting the welfare of the needy back in Kerala.
Accolades and Accomplishments
Presently registered under the Community Development Authority of Dubai as a social club, the Dubai KMCC has won the applause and appreciation of various wings of Dubai government, including the Police, Municipality and Health authority. It is also the sole Indian organization in UAE who is an official invitee to the Dubai Police parade on the UAE National Day celebrations. It also conducts regular free Blood donation camp in collaboration with the Naif Police division to help treat the patients affected with Hemophilia and Thalassemia.
Another prominent event organized by the Dubai KMCC is the celebration of the Indian Republic day and Independence Day with full vigor and color. Many eminent figures from UAE’s citizens are invited to these events which help bolster the historic relationship between the two countries. They also act as a catalyst for accelerating the Indo-Arab cultural and academic exchange.
The Dubai KMCC has played a significant role in the repatriation of those who sought to return during the Amnesty period announced at various intervals in the UAE. Free tickets were served to more than 500 candidates as well as food was also provided along with documentation support.
Dubai KMCC also came to the rescue of rehabilitating those businessmen who were affected by the NAIF souk fire incident in Dubai.
Another popular initiative by the Organization was the chartering of flights for the Indian diaspora in UAE who wished to cast votes in their country’s elections. This innovative move by the Dubai KMCC unheard of in Community activism was part of its commitment to strengthening the democratic spirit of the its members’ home country.
Dubai KMCC’s strength largely lies in the die-hard dedication of its vigorous volunteers whose mantra of compassion has unanimously won the hearts of the community members. The Ramadan Tent, a 4000 sq.ft air-conditioned canopy of selfless service serving more than 1500 visitors a day is organized during the Holy Month of Ramadan. The menu includes five types of fruits besides drinks and main course for those arriving to break their fasts. Set up at the Dubai KMCC HQ in Al Baraha area, all types of people belonging to different nationalities attend this mega event. All the arrangements are handled by the Dubai KMCC which has been serving more than 45,000 believers costing not less than Three Hundred Thousand dirhams.
The organization also participates regularly in the annual Clean Up the World, an annual initiative spearheaded by the Dubai government for promoting a clean and sound environment.
Besides the above, the Dubai KMCC also helps in the dispatching of Indians’ dead bodies to their home country, joins the prison visit team as part of the Indian consulate delegation, and arranges for hospital visit along with financial assistance to the needy patients.
On one hand it organizes a cultural platform for encouraging local artists and sportsmanship, while on other hand providing interactive sessions between visiting Indian leaders and local Indian community in UAE.
Another key area of DKMCC’s involvement is in supporting the services of Indian consulate such as passport application, renewals and other related government services to the Indian community in UAE.
Dubai KMCC also does not lose sight of the significance of empowering the community’s women and children. Women are provided workshops for enriching their humanitarian and cultural perspectives while children are blessed with creativity camps. Those winners who obtain certificates from these competitions can produce them for entry to government award contests.
Also recognized as a clerical center under the Islamic Affairs & Charitable Activities, Dubai KMCC also strives to upgrade the spiritual health of the community with regular lecture sessions in its headquarters as well as the mosques across Dubai. Umra service is also provided.
It was with the consistent efforts of Indian organizations like the Dubai KMCC which culminated in the formation of the exclusive Ministry of Overseas Affairs to deal with the expatriate Indians’ issues.
KMCC 2.0: Social change with Dignity
Presently the Dubai KMCC team is led by Anwar Naha, the unusually cool-headed visionary who has overhauled the organization’s mission and action since taking over office in 2012. An engineering graduate in Electronics and Communications, Naha was active in campus politics during his student days. Born to a politics-centric family, his father was the then deputy Chief Minister of Kerala. His two brothers continue to be significantly engaged in current Kerala political scene, with one of them reigning as the state’s Education Minister. He has been in Dubai for past two decades and is passionately pursuing his post graduation in Human rights studies.
It was at an informal talk over coffee, the former engineer-turned community activist opened his heart on his vision of “reform-oriented social change for empowerment and sustainability”. He believes that philanthropy should be able to bring about a positive change in the life of the beneficiary and ultimately make him or self self-sustainable. It should aim at creating a social change of dignity for the individual.
Community welfare, Naha argues, does not always mean standing with the members’ pain alone. It should also complement his ambition and dreams too. “It is all about the comprehensive progress for all generations of Indian expatriates”. This philosophy has made Naha a favorite of the Indian youths in UAE and he has been successful in attracting their knowledge and skills to the organization and thereby benefiting the community at large.
I used this exclusive meeting with the President of Dubai KMCC to discover further his team’s ground-breaking social initiatives benefiting the community both in Dubai and Kerala.
One of the acute concerns faced by expatriates is regarding their healthcare. What do Dubai KMCC have in mind for tackling this issue?
It’s true that many expatriates suffer from health related problems. In fact 19% of returnees to Kerala are due to health reasons. Only 2-3% of this group are due to job loss. The cost of healthcare is spiraling beyond common man’s affordability. We at Dubai KMCC made a careful study of the situation and developed many beneficial and affordable programs to resolve this lifestyle crisis.
myDoctor is a free monthly clinic program which has benefitted more than 6000 patients till date. These medical sessions consist of not only the initial checkups but follow-ups as well. More than 100 patients participate in each session and medicines worth more than three hundred thousand dirhams have been distributed. Around one hundred doctors have been involved in this community health program .
Another game changer project in this direction is myHealth, a low premium medical health insurance scheme which addresses the medical insurance requirement made mandatory as part of Dubai Government’s new policy. Members need to pay only Aed 600 for the policy premium which is actually worth Aed. 2000. More than two thousand members have benefited from this policy which is valid across leading medical care providers in Kerala also. This scheme has widely won the acclaim of the authorities for its affordability to the community.
We have also formulated “mySupport” which is a welfare scheme for selected members’ after they retire from their current jobs.
Indeed expatriates in any country will be coming across many scenarios where they require legal counsel and support. What recipe is there on the Dubai KMCC’s menu to crack the sophisticated legal nut?
Any minimum legal counsel in the UAE will cost not less than 500 dirhams. This is quite a high amount for the poor labor class whose monthly savings may be equivalent to the same figure. Non-affordability of legal fees should not mean inaccessibility to justice. It is in this context, Dubai KMCC has taken upon itself to launch “myLawyer” which provides free of cost legal support to cases related to labor, immigration and financial woes mainly related to credit card issues. A team of 12 lawyers have been supporting this mission in which at least 30 people attend per session. Overall around 1100 people have benefited from this humanitarian initiative.
Children form an essential part of any community. They are the promise and hope of tomorrow. How do Dubai KMCC secure their dreams and aspirations?
Dubai KMCC understands that only a healthy education can create a sound personality to face the future challenges. myFuture scheme provides school fees support for those students who are affected by job loss or financial bankruptcy. Our team negotiates with the school authorities and settle the dues amicably. myFuture, which spans over schools in Dubai, Sharjah and Ajman, also provides study equipments and general assistance worth more than one hundred thousand dirhams.
Dubai KMCC also occasionally hosts the Book Exchange mela which attracts around 300 families where old books are exchanged with new students.
Besides, the i-Smart is a training and guidance program which offers leadership empowerment, resource person development and awareness programs about new courses and trends.
Kerala is known for its literacy activism and preservation of art forms. How do Dubai KMCC contribute to this legacy?
We strongly believe that literacy is a key ingredient to the success of the community. Dubai KMCC supports Kerala’s ‘Literary mission’ by facilitating learning for those who lost their previous opportunities in life. Our teaching faculty, which consists of three alumni associations from Farook Callege, Darul Huda and PSMO college, help the candidates attain SSLC equivalent certificates.
Also those with artistic talents can get Kerala-government certified recognitions in collaboration with the Folklore academy.
The recent expats’ voting rights recognition sent a wave of joy and hope across the global Indian diaspora, especially the Gulf countries. How would you describe this landmark achievement as a community activist living in Dubai?
It was in the year 2000, a delegation from the UAE’s Indian community visited the then Indian premier Vajpayee with the purpose of directly appraising the Indian government of need to allow voting privilege for expats. In 2002, following the persuasion of KMCC-like organizations in UAE, the Kerala government passed a unanimous resolution supporting this democratic cause. In 2008, E. Ahmed and ET Mohammed Basheer, the Muslim League Parliamentarians strongly raised this issue in the Lok Sabha, the lower house of Indian parliament. Finally in 2014, the Indian Supreme Court validated our appeal in response to a legal battle initiated by Dr Shamseer along with Haris Beeran, the president of Delhi KMCC.
How do the general public connect to Dubai KMCC besides attending its gatherings and workshops?
Our Media Wing is a group of dedicated volunteers who update all our activities on the portal, dubaikmcc.org and also our facebook page. We receive tons of feedback via email and phone calls for our interventions in life-transforming situations.
Our media wing also produced recently a documentary, Malabar Rebellion, which was appreciated by scholars and historians.
Kerala figures first in your organizational brand KMCC. What are the welfare initiatives in your home state?
Dubai KMCC, which is ever alert to the problems of the expat Indians in Dubai, cannot close its eyes to the needy lot in Kerala. Dubai KMCC is involved in various humanitarian projects, some in collaboration with local government authorities and other NGOs in transforming the lives of the affected.
Pure drinking water is a key issue in many parts of Kerala. Patients who visit government hospitals are often robbed of this gift of nature. Moreover, we are passionately buoyed by the Prophetic tradition that ‘The best charity is giving water to drink’. One can understand then the significance of providing it to the poor sick, irrespective of their caste or creed.
Uravu, literally meaning Spring, is Dubai KMCC’s answer to the above scenario whereby we have arranged to distribute 80 Taluk hospitals with water dispensers worth 40 lakhs Rupees.
Another noteworthy social intervention we have made is in collaboration with the Kerala Social Security mission run by the Social welfare ministry in Kerala. This project facilitates infrastructure development support for 14 rehabilitation centers like shelter homes for the handicapped, women, mentally challenged and special care homes. This one-crore project runs on with fifty-fifty cost-sharing arrangement with Kerala government.
Besides such direct projects, Dubai KMCC also receives several cases of requests for supporting the poor and needy in Kerala. These appeals are filtered though a scientific selective process. The applications are referred via Kerala’s district and constituency committees in Dubai and in a weekly sitting of the Dubai State Committee, the cases are considered. Funds are allocated for the selected cases.
Another milestone in the humanitarian medical aid is the CH Center, Dubai KMCC supported medical assistance under existing medical centers in Kerala. Presently it is operating in the RCC (Regional Cancer Center) in Trivandrum providing shelters for patients with stay and food amenities. Another unit is in Calicut Medical College operating a free pharmacy, voluntary service and dialysis for the poor. Such centers also run in Manjeri, Thalipparampu, Thalassery, Alappuzha, Kannur, Thrissur, Tirur and Palakkad.
Could you share some insights into the upcoming projects of Dubai KMCC?
Dubai KMCC is excited about the upcoming Akshaya center in Dubai which would be facilitated by our team for the Keralites in UAE. This will integrate the life of expatriates in UAE with that of Kerala. At least 40 government services including payment of phone bills, electricity bills, and taxes can be transacted from here in UAE.
Your organization has helped many achieve their dreams. But sky’s never the limit. How much further do you wish to take the aspirations of the expatriates?
Dubai KMCC demands Kerala be made among the international travel hubs in Kerala. By upgrading any of its existing three airports, this NRI-centric Indian state can attract lucrative infrastructure investments and avail job opportunities. Besides, the new generation of expatriates community are an educated class who frequently face travel requirements. Moreover, the hub status would also decrease travel cost.
The introduction of larger aircrafts is also a related requirement. The Gulf-Kerala is a high-volume flight frequency sector. Introduction of larger capacity flights such as Air India Dreamliner and Airbus A380 will help lower the cost of operation and thereby travel cost for the expatriate will become more affordable.
Another demand is concerning the intervention of Indian authorities in the status of the Indian expatriates. The expats in Gulf are a high-remitting group who far from being just another section in the society cluster; they are really a humungous human resource capital whom the government has to support for its own sustainability. Indian government has to intervene for the continuity of their children’s education when they return to India. Also required is a single reference point for the follow-up of cases related to their safety and security. The expatriates and their welfare should be part of the government’s common agenda. Also recommended would be for the Kerala government to provide incentive for the companies hiring expatriate returnees.
It is true that the former expatriate generation had no opportunity to complete their formal education due to their family circumstances. However, over the years they became equipped with many practical skills in their relative field as they return from Gulf. But due to non-possession of a proper accredited certification in these advanced times, they could not utilize new opportunities nor climb higher in their career ladder. They also cannot explore opportunities in other GCC countries. Therefore in order to raise their employability, we demand Kerala state government accredit and certify their skills.
Dubai KMCC also calls for conducting the Public Service Examination in centers outside India, medical insurance for expats and to relax the ECNR stamping rules from three years to 2 yrs or to do away with the rule all together.
Currently there is no official system in place to dispatch the dead bodies to Kerala. This is a concern especially when we come to know that at least 3 to 4 Indians die a day in Dubai and northern emirates. Therefore it is imminent to establish A Dead Body Dispatch center. Now there are only individual efforts such as that of Ashraf Thamarassery like KMCC activists who offer voluntary services. An official mechanism is required with the collaboration of the Indian consulate.
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There’s nothing to cool his passionate talk on community activism, even as I have the last sip of my cold cappuccino. As we concluded our sitting, Naha did not forget to express his profound gratitude for the support of Dubai government and Indian consulate authorities, mediapersons, corporate and the commoners for their cooperation and contribution.
I left the coffee table with envy for those Dubai KMCC activists who remained celebrities in the hearts and minds of countless poor and needy they helped. GOD is great!