By Gyanendra Kumar Keshri, New Delhi, Jan 18 IANS | 10 months ago

About 1.4 million Indian workers got regularised. 250 Indians are still stuck in Saudi Arabia without valid documents while nearly 140,000 workers have returned due to the kingdom's 'Nitaqat' labour policy, Overseas Indian Affairs Secretary Prem Narain has said.

"Some 250 people are still there. They are stuck because of cases related to incomplete documents," Narain told IANS in an interview.
The government is talking to the Saudi authorities to get them back, Narain said.

"Recently, Saudi Arabia's Labour Minister was here. We requested him to allow those workers to come back to India. They (Saudi authorities) have given assurance...they are trying to finalise those cases," he said.

Narain said the Indian mission in Saudi Arabia was providing all the necessary help to the affected workers.

More than half of the nearly 2.8 million Indian workers in the kingdom were affected by the Nitaqat policy aimed at increasing job opportunities for locals. Nearly 1.4 million Indian workers were regularised, while some 140,000, who lacked proper documents, were forced to return due to the new policy implemented in November 2013.

The secretary claimed that proactive steps taken by the Indian government and strong diplomatic relations helped avert a major crisis.

"About 14 lakh (1.4 million) people are regularised in Saudi, they did not come back to India. Otherwise under the normal Nitaqat policy they would have been required to come back," said Narain.

"We persuaded them to extend the grace period and finally around 14 lakh people were regularised," he added.

Narain said the new policy is good for the genuine expatriate workers holding proper documents.

"A majority of the Indian workers in Saudi are in blue collar jobs. A lot of them are illiterate and they are prone to exploitation. The new policy is good for them," he said.

India and Saudi Arabia recently signed an agreement to protect the interests of domestic workers. The agreement was signed during Saudi Arabian Labour Minister Adel bin Mohammed Fakeih's official visit to New Delhi earlier this month.

Narain said India would soon sign similar agreements with other countries to protect the interests of low-paid workers, who are generally prone to exploitation.

(Gyanendra Kumar Keshri can be reached at gyanendra.k@ians.in)

(Posted on 18-01-2014)

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