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Govt to offer legal aid to harassed Gulf NRIs

Manu A B in Mumbai | January 09, 2005 17:19 IST

The government has finally woken up to the plethora of severe labour, domestic and corporate crime–related problems being faced by nonresident Indians in the Gulf.

It is now planning to set up a corporate law office in Dubai to take up all such issues plaguing the NRIs in the Arab world, Minister for Overseas Affairs Jagdish Tytler said at the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas 2005 on Saturday.

He said the nodal agency would be affiliated to his ministry and would provide legal assistance to such hapless victims. The government will also pay the legal fees, he added.

Of the about 3.5 million NRIs currently working in the Gulf, around 85 percent are labourers.

Tytler said while on a recent visit to Oman, he was shocked to see the condition of Indian workers there.  "In Oman alone, over 3,000 [NRI] workers were without jobs after being duped by unscrupulous agents. In spite of being jobless for the last six months they were being taxed,'' he said.

"I have informed the prime minister [Manmohan Singh] about this serious issue and he has asked us to do whatever is necessary as soon as possible,'' Tytler said.

As a first punitive measure, the passports of all unscrupulous agents will be cancelled, he said.

Tytler said the government would also take up relevant NRI issues like insurance policy for workers and endorsing work contracts.

He said a basic training and guidance centre for NRIs was also on the anvil.

Meanwhile, even Kerala is also planning to set up its own NRI cells. There are around 15 lakh nonresident Keralites in the Gulf. 

"Our cell will be headed by the Inspector-General of Police, who will personally look into complaints that need to be addressed on an urgent basis. The Government of Kerala will also embark on an e-mapping initiative to collect reliable data on the NRIs spread across the Middle East,'' Chief Minister Oomen Chandy said. 

Gulf NRIs lament that despite contributing significantly to their country's development, their issues were always being sidelined.

"The process of Saudiisation [filling jobs in Saudi Arabia with locals] that began in the year 1996 has become severe today and NRIs are being pushed out of the oil nation in a phased manner. They [the Saudi administration] do not follow any labour laws. The harassment [of NRIs] is greater in lowly jobs like that of a house maid or worker,'' said
Saudi Arabia-based M C Sebastian, Principal of Al Yasmin International School and Chairman of Middle East World Malayalee Congress.

The situation could worsen, as in the coming decade there would be a shortage of 100 million jobs in that country. "Already, 15 million people in the Arab world are without jobs.  Private companies are bring pressured to give preference to locals,'' said Sebastian.

NRIs suggest a work contract agreed upon by the worker, employer and the Indian embassy could be a long-term solution to the problem. Such a contract would enable the government to play a greater role in issues concerning NRIs, they added.

Pravasi Bharatiya Divas 2005: The Complete Coverage

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