Biju Govind

Move to limit period of stay for non-professionals

Over 25 lakh Keralites work in the Gulf

Suicide cases among NRIs on the rise

Kozhikode: Lakhs of Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) employed in Gulf countries will have to return home if the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) brings in a rule on residency cap on foreign workers.

A recent meeting of Labour Ministers of GCC countries agreed in principle to go ahead with a proposal not to allow expatriate workers to stay in the countries for over five years. The decision would seriously affect lakhs of semi-skilled and unskilled workers in the countries of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain and the Sultanate of Oman, K.V. Shamsudheen, Pravsai Bandhu Welfare Trust chairman, said here on Monday.

More than 25 lakh Keralites are employed in various sectors in the Gulf. Saudi Arabia and the UAE have the largest number of expatriates, roughly eight lakh and seven lakh respectively. The total annual remittance is Rs.30,000 crore including Rs.22,000 crore transferred through banks in the State.

The GCC has drawn up such as proposal citing that the influx of foreign workers to the Gulf is leading to demographic imbalance in the oil- rich nations. However, the proposed rule will not affect professionals.

Mr. Shamsudheen, a UAE-based social activist, said that enforcement of the rule would dangerously hit the Indian communities, the working class in particular, who were already shouldering a heavy burden on account of the bad financial discipline. The debt of Indians had grown multi-fold in recent times and the issue was the major cause of suicide in the Gulf countries, he said.

According to a data released by the Indian Consulate, suicide cases among expatriate Indian is increasing every year. The number of suicides was 40 in 2003; 70 in 2004; 84 in 2005; 109 in 2006 and 118 in 2007. Over 60 per cent of them were Keralites.

Cases studies have shown that the cause of 75 per cent of the cases were depression connected to accumulated debt burden while 15 per cent of the cases were family related issues and 10 per cent on job-related stress.

Mr. Shamsudheen said that the cost of living had increased in Gulf countries. Besides, many of the Indians had landed in the Gulf after taking loans to pay recruitment agencies. A large number of NRIs also take loan from banks in the Gulf to satisfy the demand of families in the State.

Banks charge interest rates for loans at eight per cent and higher but for credit cards the interest rate is above 30 per cent. Loan sharks operating in the Gulf illegally also offered loans with an interest rate ranging from 72 to 120 per cent, he said.

Around 40 per cent of the Indians who were in jail were for crime related to “cheque bouncing” cases. The spending habit of expatriates and their dependents were taking a toll on the lives of low and middle-income groups in the Gulf, Mr. Shamsudheen said.