KOCHI: Kuwait’s decision that expatriate engineers cannot renew their work visas unless they obtain a no-objection certificate (NOC) from the Kuwait Society of Engineers (KSE) has come as another jolt for the remittance-dependent Kerala economy, which has already been hit by the slowdown in West Asian countries and the rapid pace of workforce localisation in those economies.
There are about 13,000 to 18,000 expat Indian engineers working in Kuwait and it is reckoned that a large number of them are from Kerala. As per the new rule, KSE will grant the NOC only after verifying the accreditation of the colleges from where the professionals had graduated, meaning many of them may not be able to renew their visas.
This is because KSE follows the accreditation list of the National Bureau of Accreditation (NBA) and not the All Indian Council of Technical Education (AICTE). “We are aware of the gravity of the situation, and have received massive representation from various associations. We have taken up the matter with the Indian Embassy in Kuwait,” said Harikrishnan Namboothiri K, chief executive officer, NORKA ROOTS, which falls under the Department of Non-Resident Keralites Affairs. He said what the Kuwait government might be doing was to make an international benchmark for engineers taking up jobs there.
“This is a policy matter taken up by the Kuwait government, and we need to pursue the matter at the Union government level,” said Namboothiri. Institution of Engineers-India (IEI) Kerala State Centre chairman N Rajkumar said that IEI will take up the matter with KSE. “I had already raised the issue at our national council. I’m given to understand that the MoU between IEI and KSE is due for renewal. Our national president has agreed to take up the matter at the time of renewal,” he said. He said there is a proposal that all engineers who want to renew their visas or seek new jobs may be asked to write a test before companies and the government hire them.
However, Irudaya Rajan S, a professor at Centre for Development Studies, Thiruvananthapuram, said this may be a move to increase localisation of jobs in Kuwait. “We should not read this development in isolation. There is every chance that such rules may be implemented in other Gulf Cooperation Council countries,” he said. Rajan, who has been studying the migration of Malayalis over the past two decades, said nonresident Keralites are returning in large numbers, and new rules such as the one proposed in Kuwait will accelerate the trend. As per the CDS study, which Rajan led, migration to Gulf countries fell from 2.4 million in 2014 to 2.2 million in 2016.
“This was the first time that the migration numbers fell,” he said, adding that CDS will submit its new report on the second half of this year. “About 90 per cent of migration from Kerala is to Gulf countries. This means, any negative fallout in this region will affect the entire state.” “The migration from Tamil Nadu is 50 per cent to the Gulf region, and the rest to other countries. Likewise, we suggest the state government find ways to ensure that the migration is diversified into other countries,” he added.
What the new rule says
Engineers must obtain an NOC from the Kuwait Society of Engineers (KSE) to renew work visas. KSE follows the accreditation list of the National Bureau of Accreditation and not AICTE.