Thousands of jobless Indians are grounded in Saudi Arabia after losing their jobs to the fall in oil prices that hit the Gulf region and its economic activities this year. The Indian government is working to evacuate its people who are being denied both their pays and passports by Saudi companies. But would getting them back be enough?
Drop in oil prices in Gulf nations have created a topsy-turvy situation for the workers in Saudi Arabia. Thousands of jobholders in many gulf companies, especially in the construction sector, have lost their jobs as the companies have been affected by the economic crisis and Indian workers are among the worst affected.
More than 10,000 Indian workers in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait have been living in harsh conditions with limited food and water in labour camps, after losing their jobs there. They do not have enough money to renew their expired work permits or passports to return to their homeland as the companies deny to clear their salaries, which have been due sometime since last 6-7 months.
Looking at the seriousness of the matter, Indian external affairs minister, Sushma Swaraj, said, “I assure you that no Indian worker rendered unemployed in Saudi Arabia will go without food. I am monitoring the situation on hourly basis. I am satisfied to say this that food packets have been distributed to all the five camps. But this is not a permanent solution to the problem. The companies have shut their factories and left. We can’t leave our workers there. I contacted their foreign office and labour office and asked the foreign office to authorise us to bring them from Saudi Arabia.”
With government assistance, Indian office in Jeddah, capital of Saudi Arabia, distributed 15,475 kilograms of food to the affected. Along with this, Indian authorities are also trying to release dues of the employees.
Vijay Kumar Singh, Minister of development of North Eastern region in India, where a lot of Indian workers come from, also visited Saudi Arabia on August 2 to initiate the process of bringing back the workers, but is the country sewed-up to welcome them?
How ready is India?
Even after the authorities are making untiring efforts to bring back stuck Indians, is the country prepared for their movement? The return of the Indian migrants will affect the economy as well as the social environment of the nation. It is likely to reduce the foreign remittances that can lead to a fall in Disposable Personal Income (DPI). Remittances from Indians is a major source of income for many families in the country.
Along with this, with the homecoming of thousands of jobless workers, there may be situation of increased unemployment in the country, that is already soaring high.
To add to the misery, labour localisation policies adopted by many Gulf nations on India is not fully understood. Though the government of Saudi Arabia proposed to reduce its dependence on oil, it is a very long process. With this amount of unrest, for both the workers and companies, it is difficult to say if there is a future for the blue collar Asian migrants in the gulf anymore.