Tuesday, August 2, 2016

I am an Indian expat, not a doormat

Indians are spread across every continent. We have embassies and consulates almost everywhere. But do they have a database of expatriates in each country. Ask any ambassador, they will admit there is no such practice of head counting.

It was when issues like massive job loss, as it happened in Saudi Arabia, or a war like situation arises in other countries, the governments realise that expat community does exist.

But why? It's high time the political parties and government start thinking about changing the outdated immigration rules that indirectly support bonded labour in foreign nations.

It is a fact that millions of Indians left their country for a foreign nation for betterment of their lives which in turn helping the entire nation. Be it blue collar or white collar, each one is contributing to the welfare of the mother land.

Let the crisis in Saudi Arabia be an eye-opener for the Indian government. With the swift action, Narendra Modi government has proved it has the guts to intervene and settle the issue for the benefit of Indian community there.

At the same time, people dying out of hunger shows how alienated are the ordinary working class community. The Indian embassies and consulates, especially in Arab nations, function for the business class communities and the creamy layer society.

People from a tiny state like Kerala contribute to the largest chunk of expat community and the state even boasts 'outstanding welfare' programmes for the repatriates. But look around, it is not difficult to see Gulf returnees, even the talented ones, left with no choice but to wither away rest of their lives.

Being an expatriate for over a decade, I am worried about the expat community, especially in the GCC. Though labour laws in certain countries are strong enough to protect workers, the final word rest with the employers.

What the government can do in this regard is to introduce a proper mechanism at the diplomatic missions and make them understand they are bound to protect the expat community as well. Their duty does not end in fostering ties with a foreign nation alone.