Amid concerns in India over enforcement of Nitaqat law following which 1.41 lakh Indians left Saudi Arabia, the Gulf nation on Thursday said the legislation was aimed at punishing illegal expatriates and no legal employee will face any hardship.
Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Information, Abdulaziz Binsalamah said Nitaqat has been implemented to ensure that millions of foreign workers, including Indians who have valid documents can enjoy their entitlements.
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 policy would lead to denial of job opportunities for a large number of Indians working there.
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Allaying apprehensions in India over the law, he assured that no legal worker will be harassed and Saudi government will do everything possible to protect their rights.
“The legislation has been brought to benefit millions of expatriates. In fact, the legal citizens are now relieved,” Binsalamah, who is part of the delegation accompanying Crown Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, told reporters during an interaction.
As per government estimate, around 1.41 lakh Indians left Saudi Arabia between April 6 and November 3, 2013, following the enforcement of Nitaqat law.
Binsalamah said Saudi Arabia decided to implement the law to come down hard on illegal immigration rackets and smuggling of drugs and arms into the country.
Indians form the largest expatriate community in Saudi Arabia and their contribution in the progress and development of there is well recognised. There are over 2.88 million Indian nationals currently working in Saudi Arabia.
During the interaction with media, Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Culture and Information Abdulaziz bin Mohieddin spoke about various aspects of the ties between the two countries and said the landmark visit of King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud in January 2006 was a “turning point” in the relationship.
He also referred to the King then terming India as his “second home” and said Saudi Arabia would like to expand ties with India in diverse sectors.
In his speech, read out before a group of media persons from both the countries, the Minister mentioned about the visit by King Saud of Saudi Arabia to India in November 1955.
He also recalled the visit of first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru to Saudi Arabia in 1956 during which he had delivered a speech at a football stadium.
“This was a privilege which was not given to any other foreign leader,” he said.