The kidnapping of some Indian workers at Mosul in war-torn Iraq underscores the challenges Indian expatriates face in the Gulf region. While hundreds of them serving in the border areas of Iraq have managed to escape and reach India, thousands are still trapped in the country. They and their kin in India are worried about how the warriors of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria would conclude their onward march, which has so far been without much resistance. The prospect of a full-fledged war between the ISIS and the American-backed Iraqi regime is bound to adversely affect the fortunes of nearly six million Indians working in the Gulf Cooperation Council states.
The first and foremost task for the government of India is to organise evacuation of all those trapped in Iraq and Syria. It only has to recall the evacuation of tens of thousands of Indians who had to flee from Kuwait when Iraq captured the country and declared it as one of its states to arrive at the logistics required for such an operation. That is the least the nation can do for them at this juncture. The incident is also a pointer to the pathetic condition of Indians working in the Gulf. Most of them are low-wage earners without any long-term benefits like pension and deferred wages called bonus. What’s worse, they are often victims of exploitation by their employers, who do not give them the promised wages or provide proper living conditions.
While there is an urgent need to regulate the system of recruitment for jobs in the Gulf, a lasting solution to the problems they face is to step up India’s own growth. India is not respected by the neo-rich Arabs because, in their perception, it sends tens of thousands of people who are ready to work in miserable conditions to earn a pittance. Small wonder that the Gulf states take our nation for granted. The situation will change only when the country achieves high economic growth rates and is able to provide jobs to every Indian who needs a job.