New Delhi: India is concerned about the Nitaqat policy introduced recently by the Saudi Arabian government that promotes employment of Saudi nationals in the kingdom that has resulted in some of the 2.45 million Indians living there returning to India, officials of India’s external affairs ministry said Wednesday.
There is, however, no need to be “paranoid”, the officials said.
Giving the assessment of the situation, A.R. Ghanashyam, joint secretary in charge of Saudi Arabia, said “there is nothing to be paranoid about. Definitely, we should be concerned but not paranoid.”
The policy dates back to September 2011 and stipulates that 5-30% of employees in a Saudi company, depending on its staff strength, should be citizens of the country. This has caused considerable concern in Kerala and Karnataka, states from where a number of Indians travel to Saudi Arabia for jobs. Overseas Indian affairs minister Vayalar Ravi will visit Saudi Arabia to convey India’s apprehension about possible job losses to Indians.
“We haven’t seen a significant increase in the numbers of people coming back to India” because of the Nitaqat, Indian foreign ministry spokesman Syed Akbaruddin told reporters. However, “there has been a slight increase in the numbers of those working illegally” in Saudi Arabia, he said referring to another policy of the Saudi government of repatriating those foreign workers including Indian nationals who have overstayed their work visas in the kingdom.
While Nitaqat was about two years old, the second policy of repatriation of overstaying workers was more recent, Ghanashyam told reporters. India had an ongoing dialogue on labour issues with Saudi Arabia and was in the process of working out an agreement on labour issues with the kingdom, Ghanashyam said.
He noted that the United Arab Emirates had implemented a similar crackdown on illegal foreign workers in 2007 that had resulted in some 50,000 Indians returning home. But a similar crackdown earlier this year had seen 3,500 Indians—far fewer than in 2007—come back under an amnesty deal for illegal foreign workers.
PTI contributed to this story.