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87% Of Indian-Worker Exploitation Complaints From Gulf Nations

Chaitanya Mallapur,
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As thousands of laid-off Indian workers in Saudi Arabia were said to be without food, 87% of complaints received from Indian workers at Indian missions across nine countries were from six Gulf countries, with nearly half of those from Qatar and Saudi Arabia, according to government data.


55,119 complaints of ill-treatment and “exploitation” of Indian workers were received by Indian missions across nine countries over the last three years, according to data tabled in the LokSabha (lower house of Parliament) by Ministry of External Affairs on July 20, 2016.


Of 55,119 complaints in these nine nations, the India mission in Qatar received 13,624 complaints, followed by missions in Saudi Arabia (11,195), Kuwait (11,103) and Malaysia (6,346), the Lok Sabha (lower house of Parliament) was told by the ministry of external affairs.


On July 30, 2016, Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj acknowledged the hunger facing laid-off Indian workers in Saudi Arabia.



Swaraj promised, through a series of tweets, “that no Indian worker rendered unemployed in Saudi Arabia will go without food”.




The complaints received from Indian workers include “non-payment/delayed payment or underpayment of salaries, long working hours, inadequate living conditions, physical harassment, non-renewal of visa and labour card on time, refusal to pay for medical treatment, denial of leave and air-ticket to home town on completion of contract period, forcible custody of passport and visa and refusal of leave or exit/re-entry permits”, the ministry said in its reply to the Parliament.


No specific complaint of sexual abuse were reported, the ministry added.


24% of Indians jailed aboard in Saudi prisons


Saudi Arabia has more Indians in prison than any other country: 1,697 of 7,213, according to another Lok Sabha reply on April 27, 2016.


Saudi Arabia is followed by United Arab Emirates (1,143). The six Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries—Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Bahrain—account for half of all Indians jailed abroad and 87% of mis-treatment complaints received from Indian workers.


The Indian mission in Saudi Arabia registered 1,676 complaints during the first half of 2016.


Source: LokSabha; *2016 figures upto June 2016.


Poor working conditions put an Indian living in Saudi Arabia or Kuwait at 10 times the risk of death compared to an Indian living in the US, IndiaSpend reported in August 2015.


Saudi Arabia, UAE, Oman and Kuwait report between 65 and 78 deaths per 100,000 Indian workers.


An average of 69 Indians die every year in the six Gulf countries. The corresponding figure for the rest of the world is 26.5, almost 60% lower.


(Mallapur is an analyst with IndiaSpend.)


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  1. Nagaswamy Subramanian Reply

    August 4, 2016 at 12:00 pm

    The issue of highlighting the plight of Indian workers has been long overdue. I always wonder why the electronic media in India have not taken up this grave issue and discussed this in debates using examples of real-life situations.

    Having worked in a GCC country, I would like to broadly emphasise on the following:

    * Indian recruiting agents are primarily responsible for arranging poor contract deals for workers.

    * Indian-managed companies and others like Lebanese, Egyptian and Pakistani companies are primarily responsible as they exploit and deny fair compensation to their workforce. The workers are very often cut-off for long from their families. Most of them can travel to see them only after two years.

    * The workers, therefore, find easy outlets for relief by taking recourse to alcoholism, smoking and totally ruining themselves. They borrow money and drive themselves to despair to a point of no-return.

    * The living conditions in labour camps to accommodate private sector labour, to say the least, is inhumane. Although governments have sound regulatory systems, these are rarely followed with any degree of seriousness for proper implementation.

    * The living conditions of workers in government-run oil companies and government departments are good and decent, though partial for Asians.

    * Most Indians do not have the aggressiveness to be on par with other nationalities. Hence, Indians, by and large, prefer to accept their dominance despite better skills. Many live in constant uncertainty of job security as downsizing of the company will generally first affect the Asians.

    * European/US-managed companies would generally like to genuinely give a fair and decent deal to the workers. Supervisory and senior level employees are well looked after and respected for the work and performance. They will, however, not like them to dominate and rub shoulders with them. On the social front as well, they do not encourage free mixing of communities and prefer to keep other nationalities aloof.

    While this is not an exhaustive list of the living conditions, we have to keep in mind that the working conditions of workers in millions of private sector establishments are dismally poor.

    Under these conditions, workers accept the opportunity to work in a distant land even if this means selling their savings and assets – only to find soon that the grass is not green on the other side.

  2. ABC Reply

    August 4, 2016 at 12:47 pm

    I am working with Kharafi National Company in Kuwait. I have not received my salary for five months. I am surprised that the management is not bothered about our problem.

    If we don’t get salary for five months, how can we pay house rent, other expenses of our own and family and the educational expenses of our children?

    I have taken a loan here and bankers are now threatening to file complaint of non-payment to the legal department who will then approach MOI to place a travel ban.

    Let them pay my indemnity so I can settle my bank loan and go to my home country.

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