Nitaqat: Saudi returnees tell tales of their agony
By Vikram Mukka | Published: 18th November 2013 01:41 PM |
They left everything behind - family, friends and villages. The inability to make their ends meet with the paltry sum they earned in their own backyard compelled them to migrate - with the only hope of a few extra bucks and a better livelihood. Saudi Arabia, the oil-rich Gulf nation, has beckoned this large migratory work-force. Nothing deterred them from either selling property or taking debt to travel thousands of kilometers. However, they were astounded to find a contrasting picture of what they had anticipated.
P Sailu(26), a construction worker from Nizamabad district, was promised by his travel agent a job in a construction industry in Dammam two years back. But, he was taken to a place in Saudi, which he could not even name, to work as carpenter. “There I was treated like a slave and I was not even given proper food, leave about salary,” he recollects. It has been two months since he managed to reach home, but he still vividly recounts the agony, blow-by-blow, he had faced.
Further exacerbating the miseries of the migrants, the Saudi Arabia government has slapped the ‘Nitaqat’ law in September 2011 that mandates private establishments in the country to ruthlessly sack migrants from existing jobs to accommodate locals.
The growing resentment among the unemployed youth as unemployment levels rose to an unsustainable 12.5 per cent, forced the wealthy nation to act. Depending upon the size of the establishments, 10 to 30 percent jobs should be reserved for locals, the law stated. This left Indian nationals, close to 2.8 million, working there in a lurch.
With the repeated pleas from the government of India, the Saudi Arabian government extended the deadline thrice till November 3, 2013 to enforce these changes. The law also mandates migrants to work under the same employer and place notified on their visas and job cards.
However, with most of the migrants this is not the case. “In a bid to make money, travel agents had fabricated jobs and employers who never existed. Even before they could understand that they were hoodwinked by the agent, they were forced to work in agriculture fields and domestic-helps,” says Bheem Reddy of Migrants Rights Council, Hyderabad.
K Sridhar (32), another victim from Nizamabad, spent Rs 1,20,000 to reach Saudi Arabia in June 2013. His agent promised him a cab-driver’s job, but he was forced to work as domestic-help. “I was washing clothes, cleaning dishes, herding cattle of a rich household. They did not even give me proper food. They let me starve for days. Due to excessive heat and insufficient nutrition, I developed kidney stones. I have lost weight, it was like being in a bonded-labour. I could not even run away, my passport was snatched away,” he recounts the ordeal. It has been 20 days since he had managed to reach home.
The plight of the family members of Rajashekar Reddy, Karimnagar, who left for Saudi Arabia ten months back is even worse. Although he managed to procure an outpass from the Indian embassy in September, he is still stuck in Najran, a southern province, as he could even afford a flight-ticket.
“I last heard that he was stranded in Najran in September, but till date there is nothing known about him. He was promised a job in super-market in Riyadh. But, I was told he was taken to an interior place in Madina and was forced to herd cattle. His passport was withheld,” his uncle Krishna Reddy says pining for his nephew.