Expressing concern over the economic status of ethnic Indians in Malaysia, a top leader of the minority community here has claimed that more than 1.
5 lakh families were still stuck in the low-income bracket.
"What is worrying is that about 20,000 families earn less than RM 720 (about Rs 8000) a month and could slip into the hardcore poor category," said Samy Vellu, the president of Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC) party that represents the Indian community here.
73-year-old Vellu said more than 1.
50 lakh ethnic Indian families are still stuck in the low-income bracket despite the minority community making rapid strides in the last decade in this multi-ethnic, multi-religious country.
7 lakh Indian families are poor, said Vellu, who has been at the party's helm for over three decades.
He said this was despite the community's transformation from one of mostly labourers to one in which a quarter are professionals.
At the same time, he said in the last 15 years there had seen much positive change in the capability of the community to attain its goals.
"For instance, Indian parents unlike their predecessors place greater importance on educating their children to become professionals," the veteran leader underlined.
Malaysia's ethnic mix includes 25 per cent ethnic Chinese, a majority of whom are comparatively well off compared to the eight per cent ethnic Indians.
Malays form the majority population with 60 per cent.
A majority of the ancestors of the local ethnic Indians, mostly Tamils from the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, were brought by the British almost 200 years ago to work at rubber plantations in the then Malaya.
Several left when India became independent, but many others stayed back and took on Malaysian citizenship when the country became independent in 1957.
Though many took advantage of the education facilities, several working in the plantations suffered.
Their offsprings have continued to live here and many have not completed their education.
Vellu has been under attack from the community leaders who accuse him of not doing enough for the ethnic group even though he has been at the helm of affairs of the MIC for over three decades.
Vellu said the MIC's educational arm Maju Institute of Educational Development (MIED) would set up a student advisory unit to deal with problems faced by Indian students.