Stalled travel, peaked living costs and diminished employment opportunities — all this and more stare the 2 lakh immigrants from Telangana and Andhra Pradesh in the face, thanks to Gulf Cooperation Council’s blockade and boycott of Qatar. The twin States account for 33% of Indian immigrants.
A total of 43,000 people from the two States, who were expected to travel from Doha to Hyderabad after Ramzan in the months of June, July and August, will now have to reschedule their trips or cancel them altogether as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain will not fly their airlines to Qatar or allow connecting flights from Doha to fly over their territory.
Most immigrants travel to Hyderabad once in two years for 45 days. Living in Qatar is also expected to get dearer with the blockade imposed on exports to Qatar from GCC Countries. As much as 95 per cent Telugu immigrants in Qatar are blue collar workers who earn between Rs. 10,000 and Rs. 25,000 a month.
Speaking to The Hindu from Sanaya Industrial Area of Doha, G. Ravi a concrete pump technician who has been living in Qatar for seven years, said if the crisis deepens, he will have to shell out 920 Qatar Riyals more than his original airfare which was 600 Riyals on Air Arabia, which flies via Sharjah, Saudi Arabia. A difference of Rs. 16,100 one way.
“Direct flights to Hyderabad are very expensive. Cheap ones such as Air Arabia or Fly Dubai cannot be accessed any more,” Mr. Ravi said in the telephonic interview. Most blue-collar labourers spend less than Rs. 20,000 on round trip to India. Those who opt for extended stay will incur additional food and living costs. “Markets here are flooded and the monthly spending of 228-300 Riyals will go up as people have started hoarding already,” Ravi said.
In the past three years, the Telugu States have contributed an additional workforce of 30,000 labourers for Qatar’s 2022 World Cup constructions. “Those who went as World Cup labourers had done so quickly without back-up resources. Most of them also had to surrender their passports to employers. They will have to stay back even if the conflict deepens,” said M. Bhim Reddy of Migrant Rights Council. Immigrants to GCC Countries contribute an average Rs. 1,000 crore per month to the economy of Telangana and AP, Mr. Reddy added.
Other than construction labourers, Telugu women house-helps who account for 25 per cent of the immigrants to Qatar will suffer the most as they will not be able to take up jobs in other countries including Saudi Arabia, Mr. K. Ranjith Kumar, president of Pravasi Mazdoor Union, Hyderabad said. Meanwhile, Non-Resident Indian Cell which inspects labour issues reported no concerned calls from Qatar 24-hours after the GCC débâcle.