Govt fails Gulf expats despite cash inflow

Govt fails Gulf expats despite cash inflow

With cheap labour coming from countries like Bangladesh and Vietnam, Indian workers in Gulf nations are undergoing a lot of stress.

Blue-collared Indian workers in six Gulf countries contributed half of foreign remittance to India from world over in the past five years, but when it comes to their well-being, the authorities back home are accused of turning a blind eye to their travails abroad.

An analysis of official data showed that $209.07 billion or 50.95% of $410.33 billion foreign remittances between 2012 and 2017 came from Gulf countries — the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, Kuwait and Bahrain. The UAE topped the list with $72.30 billion, followed by Saudi Arabia ($62.60 billion), Kuwait ($25.77 billion), Qatar ($22.57 billion), Oman ($18.63 billion) and Bahrain with $7.19 billion.

A comparison shows that remittances from Indian expatriates in the United States was $68.37 billion while it was $23 billion from the United Kingdom and $17.3 billion from Canada. From Australia — another preferred destination for Indian expatriates — the foreign remittance was just $10.17 billion during this period.

An RTI by transparency activist Venkatesh Nayak of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), reported by DH on Thursday, showed that at least 24,570 Indian workers have died in Gulf countries since 2018 and that for every $1 billion remitted from the Gulf, 117 people died.

Embassies remain spectators

Experts attribute the high number of deaths to growing social and family isolation of workers who are forced into a much competitive labour market in the Gulf. The workers in these countries also blame the Indian embassies for turning a blind eye to their travails.

With cheap labour coming from countries like Bangladesh and Vietnam, Indian workers are undergoing a lot of stress. Also, several companies have fully or partially withdrawn health and other insurance schemes and healthcare facilities.

“The comfortable job atmosphere does not exist in the Gulf anymore. There is no grievance redressal system and there are no labour rights. They do not comply with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) guidelines. The working conditions are stressful, and this strain and extreme weather conditions are affecting their health,” Kerala Public Service Commission member Ginu Zacharia Oommen told DH.

Oommen, an expert on international migration, said the Indian government is not doing enough to address the concerns of workers by providing them social security benefits.

While those from the West in the Gulf are covered by insurance schemes of their own countries, no Indian gets such a social security cover.

“For the government, it appears that the responsibility ceases to exist as soon as a worker flies out of India. It even disbanded the Ministry of Overseas Indians,” Oommen said.

While the government and embassies face the ire of expatriates in the Gulf, social activists and expatriate organisations are trying to fill in the void. One of the major complaints from expatriates is the delay in sending bodies back to India. They say the mission there does not expedite the process.

“Nowadays, these outfits take proactive measures to send bodies. The sad part is that the government is still not proactive,” a former senior government official said.

Read: 10 Indian workers die in Gulf every day: RTI