Saudi Labour Minister out of country; is expected to return after April 15

The Central government says there is no cause for apprehension over large-scale return of Indians because of the Saudi Arabian law ‘Nitaqat’ that provides for mandatory recruitment of Saudi nationals in their establishments.

There was also no urgency for Ministers to rush to Riyadh, the Saudi capital, because the Saudi Minister concerned was out of the country and was expected to return only later this month, said senior officials of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA).

As the Saudi Minister for Labour was expected to return to Riyadh after April 15, India would officially engage with him later this month. Minister for Overseas Affairs Vayalar Ravi had announced his intention to go to Saudi Arabia to hold discussions on the issue.

The government dismissed the talk that the bulk of the 24.5 lakh Indians in Saudi Arabia would have to return because the Saudi law provided for five per cent to 30 per cent reservation to Saudi nationals.

‘Minimal impact’

“They are not asking for the moon. They are looking after their own citizens,” said A R Ghanshyam, senior MEA official, while pointing out that a small percentage of people from other countries such as Pakistan, Yemen, and Nigeria too would experience moments of uncertainty when the Saudi government implemented the law. But Indians were the preferred community, he said, suggesting that the impact would be minimal.

The government was in discussions with the Saudi government to ensure minimum impact of the law. But the officials admitted that they could do little since this was part of the Saudi “internal policy machine.” The idea of reservations had occurred after the Arab Spring, and Riyadh wanted to initiate measures to ensure gainful employment for as many Saudi youngsters as possible.

There was little New Delhi could do about Saudi Arabia’s drive to check identity documents and work visas of all foreigners living there. Indians who had changed jobs without getting an endorsement on their visas could be in trouble.

As for Indians living there illegally, the officials did not expect the deportation of rule violators to be anywhere on the scale of the 50,000 Indians sent back in 2007. Following that large-scale deportation, Indian missions had tightened their monitoring procedures and in the 2013-amnesty, only 3,500 Indians had been sent back, said an official.

Talks on

“Dialogue with Saudi government is on. Our Ambassador has met the Governor of Riyadh and the Governor of Eastern Province, where the largest number of Indians workWe have not seen any increase in the number of people coming out due to Nitaqat. Yes, we have seen a slight increase in numbers of those coming back because of irregular appointments or irregular working conditions,” he said.

Mr. Ghanshyam paid tributes to the contribution of the Indian workers in Saudi Arabia in providing social stability by sustaining their families back home. Indians working in the Gulf contribute a substantial portion of remittances worth 70 billion dollars to India every year, World Bank figures say.