Thiruvananthapuram/New Delhi: Thousands of Indians, especially Malayalis employed in
Saudi Arabia, may be impacted by a new work policy of the kingdom
that seeks to reserve a certain percentage of jobs for locals.
According to the new Nitaqat policy - or Saudisation programme -
of the kingdom, 10 percent of jobs are to be reserved for locals.
The policy is aimed at expanding employment opportunities for
There are over two million Indians working in Saudi Arabia,
including 576,000 from Kerala alone.
External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said Monday evening
there was no need to panic and the Indian government would provide
assistance to Indians forced to return from Saudi Arabia.
"If somebody has to go to another country, he has to satisfy the
rules of that country. But if there is inconvenience caused to any
Indian citizens, then whatever assistance we can give, we will
provide," Khurshid assured.
"The Kerala government is setting up help desks at the three
international airports at Thiruvananthapuram, Calicut and Kochi
and 24-hour call centres to help people in distress," an official
of the department of Non-Resident Keralites Affairs (NORKA) told
"Around 576,000 people from Kerala are working in Saudi Arabia. We
are requesting for general amnesty and request a review of the ban
on re-entry of workers," the official added, declining to be
C.P. John, member of the Kerala State Planning Board, said that
thousands of Indian workers, especially Malayalis, would be
affected "if the Saudi government makes the Nitaqat policy very
"A few hundred Keralites have returned to India following
implementation of the policy," John told IANS. However, he said
that "there was no clear idea of how many Malayalis would to be
affected. There is no real picture, we are continuously waiting
for real numbers with work permits".
"Some will have to come back, some will be expelled from their
workplaces. We hope they can carry on and get absorbed in other
companies in the kingdom," he added.
"Saudis are not accustomed to working like Indians. It is very
expensive to employ a Saudi. But the managers will be forced to
employ one Saudi, who will work for eight hours and his pay will
be 10 percent higher than an Indian's. The Saudis would be forced
to rely on cheaper and more efficient Indians, who work for up to
15 hours," John said.
Minister of State for External Affairs E. Ahamed discussed the
issue with Saudi Arabia's Assistant Foreign Minister Prince Abdul
Azees Bin Abdullah Al Saud in Tajikistan Saturday.
According to reports, street cleaning and other sanitation works
have been hit hard by the Saudisation programme as almost 100 per
cent of the workers in this sector are foreigners, mostly Indians.
Many of them are illegal immigrants.
Labour inspectors and police have begun conducting raids on
enterprises suspected of employing illegal workers.
Employers complying with the Nitaqat norms would be rewarded with
incentives while those failing would have to shut shop as the work
permits of their expatriate workers would not be renewed,
according to Saudi reports. The work permit is mandatory for
getting the residential permit.