Indian Migrants In Catch-22 Dilemma: To Go Home Or Not
Even as the number of COVID-19 patients are increasing in the Arab Gulf, the majority of the Indians there are confused about whether to take up the evacuation offer planned by the Indian government due to fear of job losses.
“Infection cases are going up. Life is like hell here. We are afraid. But should we take up the evacuation offer and return is a perplexing question. I don’t think we will have our job here when we return. So I have not taken a decision yet,” Kiran P, an accountant in a company in Qatar, told The Lede.
“Even in an ordinary case, if we apply for leave, we won’t get it. Now, in this crisis, first, we won’t get leave. Second is that already the Arab governments have said that companies who are at losses can send workers on permanent leave. So, if we go, then we will lose our job,” Kiran added.
As of Tuesday, in all six Arab Gulf countries, there are 29,693 positive COVID-19 cases with 178 deaths.
While Saudi Arabia has 10,484 positive 19 cases with 103 deaths, United Arab Emirates (UAE) stands in the second position with 7,265 positive cases and 43 deaths.
Qatar has 6,533 cases and nine deaths. Kuwait has 1995 cases with nine deaths and Bahrain has 1952 cases with seven deaths.
And Oman, which has confirmed community transmission, has reported 1410 cases with seven deaths.
Even though the Indian government is contemplating a plan to bring back Indians from the Arab Gulf, it has not yet put in place a workable plan.
Recently, the United Arab Emirates had said that a few migrant-sending countries are ignoring their citizens and if they do not take them, they may reconsider the worker quota system in the coming years.
The UAE has not named any country; however, the general statement has added pressure on Indian and Pakistan governments to take back their citizens.
Pakistan has already deployed special flights to UAE to evacuate 3000 Pakistanis from the Emirates this week.
However, India still has not chalked out a plan to bring back Indians from abroad, especially from the Arab Gulf countries.
Last week, the Indian Supreme Court on Monday had said Indians stranded abroad cannot be flown back home during the current lockdown and flight suspension in India.
The apex court made this observation while hearing petitions seeking the evacuation of stranded Indians from Gulf countries and other places.
“People in other countries cannot be brought back right now,” the Chief Justice was quoted as saying.
Responding to a petition filed in the Kerala High Court to initiate the return of Indian migrant workers from the Arab Gulf, the union government said that there was no immediate plan to bring back the Indians.
However, Kerala Chief Minister told the media on Tuesday that Kerala has made arrangements to quarantine the migrants returning near the airport itself and to shift the suspected patients to hospitals.
“The government is making arrangements to quarantine about 2.5 lakh people and even if more people arrive, facilities are available to accommodate them,” he said.
“If the union government arranges a facility to help migrants return home, Kerala will take care of all matters,” he added.
Meanwhile, Saji M, a sales manager in Oman, said that they are being told verbally by office management that they can go on permanent leave if they want.
“Company was already at a loss. Now, due to COVID-19, the crisis has worsened. I stay here with my family. My children are studying here. All of a sudden, if we go back accepting the evacuation offer, then I am not sure, whether I will be able to rejoin when I return,” Saji said.
“Even in normal conditions, getting leave with all dues cleared is a herculean task here. Now, in this crisis, are they going to do everything properly? No, not at all. Now if we decide to resign now, then, we are not going to get our end of service benefits too. That’s for sure,” Saji said adding that companies are making use of the crisis.
An Indian social worker in the UAE told The Lede that companies are already making use of the crisis to remove the migrant workers.
“Many companies are already starting to report a loss to the government, even if they are not. And the government has told the private sector that companies can restructure the employees’ structure in the offices. Citing the crisis, many companies have already started to lay off workers,” the social worker added.
If the mid-level workers are worried, the blue-collar workers are also facing the same situation.
An Indian construction worker in Saudi Arabia told The Lede that already his company has told them they can go on leave and come back after the crisis is over.
“Already, this company is not paying us properly. And now, they are telling us that they will allow us to rejoin if we go now and come back later. We know that these words are hollow,” the worker added.
There are around nine million Indian workers in the six Arab Gulf countries.