Indians in the Gulf

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Death of Indian workers in the Gulf

2014-18

Manish Sirhindi, 28,523 Indian workers died in Gulf in last 5 yrs, January 5, 2019: The Times of India


Raising serious questions about the safety of Indian labourers working in the Gulf countries — Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — the external affairs ministry said 28,523 Indians working as labourers in these nations died there between 2014 and 2018.

To a question by Lok Sabha member from Patiala, Dharamvira Gandhi, minister of state for external affairs, VK Singh, said according to data compiled by Indian embassies in these countries, most deaths were from Saudi Arabia where 12,828 unskilled Indians died since 2014, followed by United Arab Emirates where 7,877 died till 2018.

Hundreds from Telangana die in the Gulf every year

U Sudhakar Reddy, January 29, 2019: The Times of India

Death of Indian workers in foreign countries (in the Gulf), 2014-18
From: U Sudhakar Reddy, January 29, 2019: The Times of India


A 24-year-old tribal farmer Ganesh Badhavath of Kottakortula Tanda in Nallavelli in Nizamabad district ended his life in Bahrain on January 13, by hanging himself, 20 days after his legal migration on a work visa. He leaves behind his pregnant wife and a two-year-old daughter. Debts due to failed borewells, money paid to the agent who obtained visa, and the stress of staying away forced him to take the extreme step.

Ganesh’s father Devi Singh told TOI, “All the four borewells dug in the one acre of land owned by Ganesh failed. He could not pay his debt of Rs 3 lakh. Ganesh had paid Rs 60,000 to an agent and got a visa in December 2018. He left for Bahrain on December 18 after being recruited by a Tamil Nadu-based agency and started working in Almoran as a cleaner for Rs 18,000 salary per month. He was able to get a visa as he had been there earlier, and had returned. We didn’t get Rythu Bandhu for the land, and Ganesh was not eligible for Rythu Bima as the land is an assigned land according to government officials.”

Ganesh’s story is not an isolated case, as lakhs of people migrate for a meagre salary of Rs 10,000 to Rs 25,000 depending on the country. The cost of living in most Gulf countries is high. Telangana is one of the top five states reporting a large number of deaths due to suicide, work site accidents, road traffic accidents and cardiac arrests. As many as 28,523 Indians died in six Gulf countries + in the past four years.


Cheated in their search of a better life

They mostly belong to Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Rajasthan, Punjab, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. Most deaths are reported from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Harsh conditions, debts, cheating by agents, and family issues back home are the main reasons behind the suicides. Officially, as per 2017 statistics, as many as 22.53 lakh workers are living in the Gulf.

Telangana NRI wing official, E Chitti Babu, told TOI, “Since July 2014, we have officially helped to get around 518 bodies, where we offer free ambulance service to shift the bodies from the airport to their hometown for Below Poverty Line families. Unofficially, another 100 bodies may have arrived. Of these cases, around 30 are suicides. Most deaths are attributed to heart attacks due to harsh weather conditions, lack of proper food and sleep. In some cases, where a person injured in road accident gets admitted to hospital and dies, the hospital authorities declare it as cardiac arrest. This is done to avoid the payment of compensation of Rs 15 lakh, for which the worker is eligible.”

2014-19: 33,988 Indians died

U Sudhakar Reddy, 34,000 Indians died in Gulf in five years, 1,200 from Telangana, November 22, 2019: The Times of India


HYDERABAD: On an average, 15 Indian immigrants die every day in six countries — Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) — in the Gulf. According to a data of the ministry of external affairs (MEA), 33,988 Indians have died in the Gulf since 2014, including 4,823 this year.

Replying to a question from Congress MP and TPCC president N Uttam Kumar Reddy in the Lok Sabha on Thursday, minister of state for external affairs V Muraleedharan said a majority of deaths of Indians were reported from Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Telangana NRI wing official E Chitti Babu said Telangana is one of the states in India which account for a large number of deaths. “We believe around 1,200 from Telangana may have died in the Gulf in the past five years,” he told TOI.

Curiously, the Telangana government’s NRI wing maintains death records of only those where a free ambulance is provided to the families. Babu said that 850 families of below poverty line have availed the free ambulance service for shifting bodies of their kith and kin from Shamshabad airport to their villages and towns.

Till October this year alone, MEA had received 15,051 complaints from Gulf NRIs, mostly pertaining to cheating by agents on employment. Muraleedharan told the Lok Sabha that most of the complaints received from Indian workers are over non-payment of salaries and denial of legitimate labour rights and benefits such as non-issuance/renewal of residence permits, non-payment/grant of overtime allowance, weekly holidays and longer working hours.

“Refusal to grant exit/re–entry permits for visit to India, refusal to allow the workers to return to India on final exit visa after completion of their contracts and non-provision of medical and insurance facilities and not being paid compensation upon death are some of the other complaints,” he added.

Year-wise trends

2015-16: the status of Indians in the Gulf

2015-16: the status of Indians in the Gulf; Graphic courtesy: The Times of India, August 3, 2016

See graphic:

2015-16: the status of Indians in the Gulf

2019: Workers from Africa, Philippines replace Keralites

Shenoy Karun, March 11, 2019: The Times of India


A weakened economy of the Middle East and protectionist measures of the Indian Government results in the displacement of Indian labourers, especially the Malayalis in the Gulf, say experts in migration.

“The economy of Gulf hasn’t picked up after the global crisis. There is some recovery but haven’t got back to the pre-2008 level. They were trying to recover through World Cup, Dubai Expo 2020 and Saudi Arabia Vision 2020, but they are yet to reach the pre-2008 stature, said S Irudaya Rajan of Centre for Development Studies, Thiruvananthapuram. The wages haven’t gone up. But people from other countries like Nepal or the Philippines are ready to work for low wages, thus edging out Malayalais. I had met some Nepali labourers in Qatar, who are working for $200 (Rs 14,000) per month,” he said.

According to him, the salary of teachers in the Philippines was so low that they were coming to the Middle East to work as housemaids.

“This led to a situation where the Philippine Government had to match the teachers’ salary with that of housemaids in the Gulf to bring them all back,” he pointed out.

“Africa is becoming a big threat to Indian labourers, especially Malayalis,” said Majeed Abdulla, chairman of Resource Hunters, which supplies human resources to the Middle East.

“They have multi-skills and their language skills are also good, prompting firms to hire them. And they demand only a little above 50% of what you typically pay to an Indian worker,” he said.

The displacement is happening in professions like drivers, helpers and store workers.

“While Indian drivers demand more than Rs 20,000 per month, the African counterparts work for the equivalent of Rs 8,000 per month. Similarly, while Indian security staff demand Rs 30,000 the Africans are willing to work for Rs 20,000 per month,” Abdulla said.

A second factor for the displacement of Indian workers is the higher minimum wage fixed by the Indian government, said a Mumbai-based recruiting agency.

For example, the Indian embassy in Saudi Arabia has published the referral wage of unskilled workers as SR 1,500 (close to Rs 30,000). For the local Arab households and businesses, this proves to be expensive, because, apart from this the employer must provide food, accommodation, transportation, medical insurance, uniforms, paid leave and return ticket for the worker.

A third factor is the attempt of the Gulf countries to maintain a demographic balance. It also acts against the hiring of Indian/Malayali workers.

See also

Indians in the Gulf

Kerala and the Gulf

Migration: India

Migration: South Asia

Non-resident Indians (NRIs): Kerala

Remittances: South Asia

Indians in the Gulf

Patkuri Basanth Reddy

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