NEW DELHI: In a shocking disclosure, a human rights group has said that over the past six years, 10 Indian workers died every day in the Gulf countries, which account for more than half the foreign remittances received by India annually.
There are more than 30 million Indians overseas, with over 9 million concentrated in the six Gulf nations.
"Available data indicate that at least 24,570 Indian workers died in the six Gulf countries between 2012 and mid-2018. This number could increase if the complete figures for Kuwait and UAE are made available publicly. This amounts to more than 10 deaths per day during this period," PTI quoted Venkatesh Nayak from the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative as saying.
This translates to 117 deaths per $1 billion remitted to India from the region, he said, based on his analysis of data provided by the External Affairs Ministry and responses to parliamentary questions about the number of Indian workers who had died in Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates from January 1, 2012 to about mid-2018.
While "India received a total of $410.33 billion in remittances from the world over, remittances from the Gulf countries accounted for $209.07 billion," he said. Kerala topped the share of remittances, accounting for almost 40 per cent, followed by Punjab, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh.
According to Nayak's analysis, during 2012-17, there were over 187 deaths for every $1 billion in remittances received from Oman, followed by over 183 deaths in Bahrain, 162 deaths in Saudi Arabia, more than 74 in Qatar and 71 deaths in the UAE.
But while remittances are expected to rise during 2018, declining crude prices and the resulting economic slowdown in the GCC countries meant the number of Indians migrating for work in 2017 fell nearly 34 per cent to 520,938 compared to 2015. According to the ILO's Migration 2018, Indian workers going to Saudi Arabia declined 47 per cent to 162,000 in 2016 from 2015, and workers going to the UAE fell 29 per cent in the same period.
While official sources were unavailable for comment, a former diplomat remarked that "if true, this is a massive dark cloud to the silver lining of Gulf money, and needs to addressed on a priority basis. While the MEA has taken a few tangible steps to prevent exploitation of Indian workers abroad, mainly in the Gulf, obviously that is not enough."