Reverse exodus of Keralites gains pace

The reverse exodus of Keralites from Saudi Arabia has gained pace with the authorities beginning a crackdown on small and medium companies that have failed to employ Saudi nationals under the Nitaqat system launched last year.

By T K Devasia

Published: Sun 31 Mar 2013, 12:12 AM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 4:13 PM

The people driven out by the Saudisation programme have started returning in small batches. Sixteen people hailing from Malappuram and Calicut districts arrived by the Saudi Airlines at the Karipur International Airport at Calicut in the morning.

They said thousands of people from the state were preparing to return as the Saudi police were raiding both the work places and residences. Long queues have already started surfacing in the Indian embassy and consuls in the Kingdom.

The exodus may gain momentum with the intensification of checking by the police after the holiday on Friday. Naushad, who was working in a mini super market at Jeddah employing only expatriates, said Nitaqat will affect the unskilled workers like him the most. Majority of more than half a million Keralites working in the Kingdom are in the unskilled category. They hail mostly from the northern districts of Malappuram, Calicut and Kannur. Mohammed Kassim of Kallai near Calicut said the Nitaqat would also affect large number of Keralites, who run small shops and restaurants in various cities in the Kingdom. They would find it difficult to survive as they have to pay Saudi nationals 3000 SAR per month as minimum salary that too for eight hours a day under the Nitaqat law.

The foreigners were working 10 to 15 hours a day at much lower salary. If they are replaced by Saudi nationals the business would run in loss. The law also prescribes a fine of 2500 SAR for not employing the local citizens.

The returnees have a bleak future ahead. A large number of them would not be able to go back to Saudi as the authorities were stamping ‘exit seal’ in their passports. They would also find it difficult to get jobs according to their experience in the state.

The rehabilitation programme announced in the state budget for 2013-14 fiscal will not benefit them as it provides loans with subsidised interest only against the subscription they pay. Non-resident Keralites Affairs Minister K C Joseph said that the government will draw up a separate rehabilitation programme for the returnees.

He said that the next cabinet meeting will discuss the issue. He said that the state government had also urged the federal government for assistance in this regard.

He said he himself had written a letter to Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh.

Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) president Ramesh Chennithala on Friday drew the attention of party president and United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson Sonia Gandhi to the issue. She has agreed to discuss the matter with the Prime Minister.

Economists said a substantial return of the migrants will affect almost all sectors of the economy, especially construction. The impact will be felt immediately on the land price.

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