PORT KLANG: Pakatan Harapan aims to develop a special fund for the social and economic welfare of the Indian community in an effort to eradicate poverty and ensure that aid is available for them at all times, its Indian leaders pledged at a forum here last night. According to Klang MP Charles Santiago, the pledge which is one of the 25 contained in Pakatan Harapan's manifesto for the Indian community was inspired by the Singapore government's Singapore Indian Development Association (Sinda) fund. "The Indian community is in dire need of a similar fund and if we are able to form the government in the coming elections, we intend to initiate this. The fund which is dedicated to aid the Indian community will begin with an allocation of RM4 billion for the 10 years derived from the government and government-linked companies (GLCs). "To ensure that these funds can take effect immediately, the Pakatan Harapan government will provide an immediate initial allocation of RM100 million in our government's first budget," he told a crowd of over 200 people during the Pakatan Harapan's forum titled "Focus on the Manifesto for Indians" at the Valluvar Hall here. Other members of the forum include PKR vice president Dr Xavier Jayakumar and DAP's former Teluk Intan MP M. Manogaran. Adopting the Sinda fund model, Santiago said the fund's management will involve the participation of the Indian community as a whole by ensuring that each individual is able to contribute to the fund via a minimal salary deduction to ensure the fund's growth and sustained aid is provided. "As a two-term MP for Klang, I have encountered many cases where Indians due to high costs of living and low salaries turn to Ah Longs (loan sharks) for financial aid. Their lives then become a living hell forcing them to seek for aid at my office," he said. The DAP lawmaker cited an instance at his service centres where a woman had borrowed only RM1,500 from a loan shark but struggled to make repayments due to her low salary working at the estate and four children to support as well. "The loan amount is little but she earns only over RM1,000 a month. Following cuts to her EPF and Socso, she gets only around RM700 plus and has to fork out RM350 per month to pay off the Ah Long. How would she be able to support her family in this instance? "At the service centre, we may be able to help perhaps two to three such cases every month but imagine if there is 100 people in a similar conundrum," he said. According to its website, the Sinda Fund was set up in 1992 as a community fund for the benefit of Indians in Singaore. Those who qualify will contribute a monthly sum from their salaries to the funds which will be managed and channelled by Sinda to reach out to those in need of assistance, especially in the areas of education, youth aspirations and parenting. Meanwhile, echoing similar sentiments, Xavier said that the Pakatan Harapan-led government's pledge to introduce a minimum wage of RM1,500 a month during its first term will directly help the Indians working in this category. "The cost of living is high and it is across all races not just Indians. The decision to introduce these minimum wages was not an easy one as there are businessmen who have expressed their disatisfaction about it. However in an effort to aid them, the Pakatan Harapan government will ensure that a subsidy is provided to them on a temporary basis to aid the worker's salaries until they are able to support their wages themselves. "We also intend to create more job opportunities for the community by ensuring that all GLCs, federal government agencies, states and local authorities, will be directed to target 10% of their new employees from the Indian community,"the Seri Andalas assemblyman added. Themed "Building a nation that fulfills the hopes of the people", the Pakatan Harapan's manifesto which was launched on March 8, outlines five core thrusts encompassing 60 pledges if the opposition pact wins the 14th General Election. The five thrusts are alleviating the cost of living; instituting political reforms, accelerate economic growth in a fair and equitable manner; restore the status of Sabah and Sarawak as per the Malaysia Agreement 1963 and build a Malaysia that is inclusive, moderate and respected on the world stage. It also contains 25 pledges to the Indian community some of which include, resolving the issues surrounding stateless Indians within 100 days and the setting up of Hindu Wakaf Board at the state level according to the model of the Penang Hindu Wakaf Board in Kedah, Perak, Selangor, Pahang, Negri Sembilan, Malacca and Johor.