India is holding talks with Saudi Arabia over the kingdom’s new work policy Nitaqat,that seeks to reserve a percentage of jobs for locals. Saudi Arabia is bringing in a new labour law that requires companies to hire one Saudi national for every 10 expatriate workers
According to Syed Akbaruddin,official spokesperson in the MEA,”We have not seen any significant increase in number of our 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.”
A study conducted by the Saudi Central Department of Statistics and Information fixed the unemployment rate in their country last year at 12.2%. That meant that more than 588,000 people were without jobs. The Nitaqat system is a process designed to boost employment of locals. The deadline for implementing the system ended on March 27.
“Indians are an actively preferred community in the Gulf. They work very hard and do not involve themselves in local politics. What is happening in Saudi Arabia is a natural consequence and is non discriminatory. The government of that country has given enough time to the illegal Indians to return. They have been very considerate to us,” R Dayakara,former head of the Gulf region and NRI /PIO in the MEA.
New Delhi is holding an ongoing dialogue with the Saudi government and the Indian ambassador Hamid Ali Rao,has met the governors of the provinces of the kingdom last month where Indians are concentrated,including in Riyadh,Medina and the eastern province. Also,later in the month a ministerial delegation led by headed by overseas Indian affairs minister Vayalar Ravi will visit Jeddah to hold talks with the Saudi government.
“Senior Indian ministers could even meet the Saudi minister of labour if the necessity is felt,who is currently traveling outside his country and expected to return later in the month. He would be the right interlocutor for the government of India to interact with on the issue,” said an officer.
In an effort to help the Indians who wish to come back and do not have the relevant travel documents,the Indian embassy has placed officials in Damman and other ports to help them.
Senior officers told FE,”Kerala sends the maximum number of workers to Saudi Arabia,and CM Oommen Chandy has said that his government “will give assurance of checking identities” of all those going to the Gulf countries for employment.
“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. A draft agreement on labour is being discussed and an approval by the Finance ministry is expected,” an official said.
There are 6.5 million Indians in the Gulf,out of which close to 2.45 million are in Saudi Arabia.
According to the World Bank,in 2012 Indians worldwide sent back remittances of $70 billion,with around 60 % of it coming from those working in the Gulf said officials.
Saud M Al Sati,Saudi Arabian Ambassador to India has asked Indian businessnesses to engage in more business and trade by cashing in on the opportunities provided by the growth prospects in his country. “There is a lot of room for Indian companies with their high technology and experience to share in development of Saudi Arabia, and there is a need for Saudi and Indian companies to engage more with each other and build long-term business partnerships,” the Saudi envoy said.
During 2011-12,the two-way trade between the two nations stood at about $37 billion. However,the trade surplus is in favour of Saudi Arabia because of huge crude oil exports to India.
Indias exports to Saudi Arabia include mineral fuels,cereals,steel,iron ore and organic chemicals,while imports comprise crude oil,plastics and its articles,fertilisers,aluminium and leather.