Thursday, April 04, 2013

Saudi Arabia: “Nataqat Law” to effect Thousands of Indian workers: Report

Source: IRNA

New Delhi, Apr 4, IRNA – Two million plus strong Indian workforce in Saudi Arabia, among them fifty thousand from the South Indian state of Kerala, stand to lose their jobs following a new Saudi labor policy.

Under a new labour policy, called Nitaqat (naturalization) program, all firms employing more than 10 people are required to recruit a minimum number of Saudi nations. Firms have been color-coded on the basis of their compliance with the new law, and strict action has been announced against violators.

The Saudi government was implementing the Nitaqat law to cut unemployment in the country.

According to reports, the current situation has also created panic among those who are from Kerala. According to 2011 statistics, at least 570,000 Keralites are working in Saudi Arabia. Nearly 150,000 Keralites are going to be affected.

The Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI) has urged the Union Government to immediately intervene diplomatically to help the Indians working in Saudi Arabia, whose jobs are at stake following new labour policy of the kingdom.

The SDPI said that tens of thousans of Indians are working all over the world and their contribution to the economy of India by flowing foreign currency has been helpful for the growth of the nation.

Meanwhile, Overseas Indian Affairs Minister Vayalar Ravi will visit Saudi Arbia to convey India's apprehension about possible job losses to Indians due to implementation of a new Saudi labour law.

The decision on Ravi's visit to the country was taken after he had discussed the issue with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Tuesday. Ravi held a separate meeting with External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid.

The Overseas Indian Affairs Ministry was in touch with Saudi authorities to finalise the dates for the visit, pti reported quoting sources as said. 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.

The government has already asked the Indian ambassador to Saudi Arabia to take up the issue with the Saudi government.

The Indian Embassy in Riyadh had on Tuesday 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.

Meanwhile, the government said on Wednesday that there was no reason for two million plus strong Indian workforce in Saudi Arabia to be 'paranoid' on account of a new labour law -'Nitaqat' and asserted there was 'ongoing' discussion with the Saudi authorities in the matter.

They also noted that there was a 'slight increase' in the number of Indians returning after the authorities in that country started strict implementation of law against illegal migrants.

'There is ongoing dialogue with Saudi government on this. Our Ambassador has met the governor of Riyadh and the governor of Eastern province, where the largest number of Indians are there, and the governor of Madina,' official spokesperson in the External Affairs Ministry Syed Akbaruddin said, adding that the exercise was to see the 'human impact' of the law.

He also said that the mission has put representatives in various trilateral cities, including Dammam, to help the Indians who don't have travel documents to return.

'We have not seen any increase of the significant number of people coming out because of Nitaqat. Yes, we have seen a slight increase in numbers of those coming back because of irregular appointments or irregular working in various places,' he said.

Giving the assessment of the situation, Joint Secretary in Gulf & Hajj Division A. R. Ghanashyam said 'There is nothing to be paranoid about. Definitely, we should be concerned, but not paranoid.'

Akbaruddin also noted that the Saudi Minister for Labour, who was India's Saudi interlocutor, was out of that country and will only return after April 15.

He pointed out that the community has seen a drastic increase from 400 thousand in 1998 to about 2.45 million currently in its population.

According to the MEA, Indo-Saudi economic relations have shown remarkable growth with bilateral trade registering three-fold increase in the last five years.

'Saudi Arabia is the 4th largest trade partner of India and bilateral trade was USD 36 billion in 2011-12. The import of crude oil by India forms a major component of bilateral trade with Saudi Arabia being India’s largest supplier of crude oil, accounting for almost one-fifth of its needs,' the ministry said.

Earlier, India’s Minister of State for External Affairs E. Ahamed discussed the issue with Saudi Arabia’s Assistant Foreign Minister Prince Abdul Azees Bin Abdullah Al Saud in Tajikistan Saturday.

Saudis are not accustomed to working like Indians. It is very expensive to employ a Saudi. But the managers will be forced to employ one Saudi, who will work for eight hours and his pay will be 10 percent higher than an Indian’s, said a media report. The Saudis would be forced to rely on cheaper and more efficient Indians, who work for up to 15 hours.

Street cleaning and other sanitation works have been hit hard by the Saudisation program as almost 100 percent of the workers in this sector are foreigners, mostly Indians. Many of them are illegal immigrants.

Labour inspectors and police have begun conducting raids on enterprises suspected of employing illegal workers. Employers complying with the Nitaqat norms would be rewarded with incentives while those failing would have to shut shop as the work permits of their expatriate workers would not be renewed, according to Saudi reports. The work permit is mandatory for getting the residential permit.