EDITORIAL | Govt fails Indians in Gulf

EDITORIAL | Govt fails Indians in Gulf

Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest tower, and luxury Burj al-Arab Hotel (L) are seen in a general view of Dubai, UAE December 9, 2015. Picture taken December 9, 2015. REUTERS

The high rate of death of Indians working in the Gulf countries has received attention in the past, but some figures which are available now are cause for increased concern. According to information based on RTI replies, at least 24,570 Indian workers died in six Gulf countries, including Saudi Arabia and the UAE, between 2012 and mid-2018. This meant that about 10 Indians died every day and 117 deaths occurred for every $1 billion remitted by Indians from these countries. The suicide rate is also high, and the number of suicides committed by Indians in these countries has risen year after year. It has been found that Indians working in Gulf countries are 10 times more likely to die than those working in the US. The enormity of the problem becomes clear when we consider that there are more Indians working in the Gulf than in any other region of the world and they account for half of the foreign remittances into the country. 

These figures show the dark side of life in these countries. Most Indians in the Gulf countries are blue-collar workers and their living and working conditions in most places are far from satisfactory. They are poor, stressful and even dangerous for a large number of them. Since there is an abundant supply of cheap labour, the terms of employment are unfavourable to the workers. Most companies do not offer health benefits, nor are insurance schemes available. Labour rights do not exist and there are no grievance redressal mechanisms. The poor working conditions received much attention when there was a spate of complaints about the ill-treatment of workers at the construction sites for the FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar. A large number of deaths were reported but the Qatar government denied any link between the deaths and the working conditions. 

The Indian government accepted this explanation. The failure of government to help Indian nationals working in extremely difficult conditions in other countries has been adversely commented on many times. It is the duty of the government to give legal, material and other support to its citizens working abroad. Expatriates have often complained about the indifference and apathy of embassies and consulates in dealing with their problems and grievances. Community groups are doing a better job than the government in many places. The Ministry of Overseas Indians, which was once created to look after the interests of Indians living outside the country, does not exist now. The reports from these countries are disturbing. The failure of the government to extend help to its citizens in difficult situations is even more disturbing. 

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