India is the world's greatest source of overseas migrants. Indian migration to the Gulf has been a vital source of money for the country ever since 1970s "oil boom," and via the transfer of earnings, it has acted as the foundation of the economy of high-migration areas like Kerala. Indian migrant labourers have significantly aided the Gulf States' economic growth throughout this period.
However, the treatment of domestic and blue-collar foreign workers in the region has come under increasing international pressure and disapproval in recent years, which has cast migration from India to the Gulf in a much less flattering light. As a result, the Government of India has begun to pay more attention to immigrant community issues and labour welfare concerns. Nevertheless, migrant labourers continue to complain about various types of abuse, exploitation, and suffering.
In the meanwhile, as a result of the region's economic recession, shifting oil prices, and modifications to Gulf labour laws, the flow of Indian migrants into the region has slowed while return migration has grown. The Coronavirus pandemic, which continues to pose unexpected health and wellbeing obstacle for the millions of Indians working in the Gulf as well as for the families and communities that depend on them, further obscures the future of migration from India to the Gulf and poses a rigorous challenge for the Indian government.
WHY ARE INDIANS MIGRATING IN THE FIRST PLACE?
Many Indians emigrate in search of employment or higher education. As was already said, the bulk of them land in gulf nations. The employment prospects in the Gulf are the primary driver of this migration. Indians have also been migrating for foreign business prospects that are more favourable. Additionally, issues with safety, taxes, and living standards are important motivators.
PROBLEMS INDIANS ARE FACING
The Indian government has been debating the negative dangers related to the migration of millions of its residents to the Gulf for at least the last ten years. However, it is simple to overlook the difficulties that blue collar Indian migrants actually endure. The bulk of Indians working abroad in the Gulf are temporary lower paid employees who paid expensive recruiting fees to sell their labour. Their precarious life is defined by a system of foreign labour sponsorship that formalises their instability.
The Gulf States continue to use the Kafala system of foreign labour sponsorship, which bound employees to their employers and has increased the deprivation of labour migrants. The method has drawn criticism for being likened to "modern-day slavery." It has been referred described as "a labyrinth of exploitation" by human rights organisations. Others have concentrated on the subpar housing that migrants are made to live in. Indian workers have filed complaints about anything from the failure to pay salaries and the denial of labour rights like the refusal to issue or renew residence permits to the failure to pay overtime or award weekly holidays. Heat stroke is said to have killed hundreds of people.
WHAT’S INDIA DOING TO TAKE CARE OF WELFARE
The Indian government has made a lot of efforts in recent years to fortify the organizational framework for safeguarding the welfare of migrants. On the domestic front, the Indian government has created a number of migration safety awareness pre-departure, protection during labour abroad, and rehabilitation upon return initiatives. In the Gulf, the GoI has created Welfare Funds, which impose minor fees on consular services to support Indian people trapped in crisis or other emergency, as well as an Indian Workers' Resource Center in Sharjah (UAE), to aid individuals who may be at danger of exploitation. Along with these steps, reform-related diplomatic initiatives have been made.
While some consider the changes implemented by Gulf governments to address claims of worker mistreatment to be partial and insufficient, some see the GoI's numerous initiatives as reactionary and fragmented measures.
WHY ARE THEY RETURNING BACK?
Numerous reasons at both ends of the migratory path contribute to the decrease in the number of Indians leaving their country to work in the Gulf. One of these is the reduction in salary gaps. In fact, the Gulf States are now less desirable travel destinations than in the past due to salary stagnation, which is mostly caused by low oil prices. The adoption of initiatives to boost the employment of citizens in the private sector has also had a role. Employment possibilities for South Asian migrants, including those from India, have decreased as a result of nationalisation policies. The cost of living has grown in the Gulf as a result of rising taxes and costs for renewing work permits. In addition, the price of necessities has increased.
In the end, it's beneficial for both India as well as the welfare of the immigrants who are now returning back to their home country. We can only hope that the situation remains contained like it is right now and doesn't worsen.
Written and Illustrated by Anvi Kedia