Friday, April 5, 2013

India minister Vayalar Ravi to visit Saudi Arabia

New Delhi: Overseas Indian Affairs Minister Vayalar Ravi will visit Saudi Arabia to convey India’s apprehension about possible job losses to Indians due to implementation of a new labour drive — Nitaqat — in the nation that seeks to reserve 10 per cent jobs for nationals.
The decision on Ravi’s visit to the country was taken after he discussed the issue with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Ravi held a separate meeting with External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid. Sources said the Overseas Indian Affairs Ministry was in touch with Saudi authorities to finalise the dates for the visit.
Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy had sought the Prime Minister’s intervention to ensure that Indians working in that country do not face any hardship due to the new legislation. As per estimates, over 500,000 people from Kerala are currently working in the country.
The Nitaqat law makes it mandatory for local companies to hire one Saudi national for every 10 migrant workers. There has been widespread perception that the new policy will lead to denial of job opportunities for a large number of Indians working there.

The sources said government has already asked the Indian Ambassador to Saudi Arabia to take up the issue with the government of that country. The Indian Embassy in Riyadh had yesterday urged the Indian community not to panic on basis of media reports. It said a number of Indians have approached the embassy seeking issuance of Out Pass (Emergency Certificate) to leave the country.
An official said here on Wednesday that there has not been any significant rise in Indians returning home due to the policy.
“We have not seen any significant increase in number of people coming out due to Nitaqat. We have seen a slight increase in the number of people coming back due to irregular appointments or irregular working hours,” said Syed Akbaruddin, the external affairs ministry spokesperson.
“We are trying to ameliorate their conditions,” he added.
He added that the ambassador (Hamid Ali Rao) has placed officials in Damman and other ports to help those who want to come back and do not have the relevant travel documents.
To tackle the huge number of illegal workers or those flouting Saudi labour norms, the kingdom “is trying to merge a corporation to recruit people, which will be a government company”.
“Labour in an important component of our relations. There is ongoing dialogue with Saudi Arabia on labour and we are in discussions of taking their support of our electronic attestation of labour contracts. There are a number of issues we are talking about and we want to understand what is the reality,” an official said.
Indians are an actively preferred community in the Gulf. “They work better, work very hard and do not involve themselves in local politics,” said the official.
There are 6.5 million Indians in the Gulf, including 2.45 million in Saudi Arabia.
According to the World Bank, in 2012 Indians worldwide sent back remittances of $70 billion, with around 60 per cent of it coming from those working in the Gulf.
Saudi Arabia is trying to identify and send back Indians who are flouting the work rules — those workers who go to the kingdom on a specific job and then move to another job, or go with one sponsor but then move on to another sponsor.
— with inputs from PTI


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