29 Jul 2022  |   05:45am IST

How safe are the Gulf countries?

The Gulf Cooperation Council union that comprises Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates as its member countries has been favoured by Indians for decades when it comes to finding employment abroad. It's been a matter of pride for many to announce that their grandchildren or relatives reside in Kuwait. Europe eventually became another preferred place to seek better employment opportunities but the Gulf did not lose its attraction for Indians. The Iran-Iraq war no longer exists and the craze to fly to Iraq eventually died down. However, many still dream to work and earn in other Gulf countries. 

While there is a group that prefers to go to America, Australia and Europe after completing higher studies, there are many with technical expertise, who favours the Gulf. The government's efforts to bring back Indians from these countries during the pandemic only solidify this statement. The Indian currency is down to 80 rupees per 1 US dollar and the devaluation will probably continue in near future. 

This only adds more to the bank balance of those working abroad. It should be no surprise that Indians find it more lucrative working in foreign countries due to the reasons mentioned above. 

Nevertheless, the question of how safe it is to work in the Gulf countries remains unanswered. The Central Government in a recent Parliamentary session revealed data which states that there has been a rise in the death rate of Indians who are working abroad, especially in Gulf countries. The statistics are concerning considering in addition to Indians, there is a vast number of people from neighbouring countries whose inclination is also towards Gulf countries. 

The employment mostly consists of hard labour but due to high standard of living, the inconvenience takes a back seat. Few years back the pictures of Indians residing in congested areas in the Gulf had gone viral but the discussion on that was short-lived and Indians continued to flock to these countries. 

Ample job opportunities and higher salary compared to India were two of the reasons behind Indians' proclivity. The period between 2019-2021 was when most deaths of Indians were reported in Saudi Arabia and UAE. All of them belonged to the hard labour category. 3573 Indians reportedly died in Saudi Arabia in the year 2020 and the number dropped down to 2328 the following year. 

Both years were when the world was grappling with covid-19 emergency while people struggled to maintain their livelihood. According to government data there are more than 35 lakh Indians currently residing in the United Arab Emirates alone and on an average 5 Indians died everyday between 2017 to 2021. 

The figure was 2454 in the year 2020 which rose to 2714 last year. In Qatar, 385 Indians died in 2020 and the tally stood at 420 in 2021. The death of Indians in Oman has doubled in the last 5 years; 485 in 2017, 630 in 2020 and 913 in 2021. The tally in Bahrain is relatively less petrifying as the deaths reported were 320 and 352 in 2020 and 2021, respectively. Presently there is a significant demand for Indian workers in Qatar with the FIFA 2022 World Cup planned to take place from November to December. 

The number of deaths reported in Qatar in 2020 was 385 which jumped to 420 in 2021. An astonishing 1201 Indian citizens died in Kuwait last year. This data raises an obvious question mark over safety provided for Indian workers in these countries. 

The International Journal of Community Medicine and Public Health published a study in 2018 which cites cardiac arrest as a common reason for deaths. Heart related diseases, road mishaps, drowning, suicides, paralysis attack, infectious diseases are other causes mentioned behind the deaths. 

Apart from COVID-19, the strict restrictions at work places, living standard, physical and mental pressure, lack of medical awareness, loans, stress are some of the major contributing factors as well. The laborers with low income have to face mistreatment, heat, humidity, overtime work, below par health and personal safety in addition to all the other issues. This proves that attraction towards Gulf countries may sometimes cost people their lives.


Iddhar Udhar