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How safe are the Gulf countries?

Jul 29, 2022 | 05:45 IST

How safe are the Gulf countries?

The Gulf Cooperation Council union which includes Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates as member countries has been favored by Indians for decades when it comes to to find a job abroad. It is a matter of pride for many to announce that their grandchildren or loved ones reside in Kuwait. Europe eventually became another prime location to seek better job opportunities, but the Gulf has not lost its appeal for Indians. The Iran-Iraq war no longer exists and the craze for flying to Iraq has died down. However, many still dream of working and earning a living in other Gulf countries.

If there is one group that prefers to go to America, Australia and Europe after completing higher education, there are many with technical expertise that favor the Gulf. Government efforts to bring Indians back from these countries during the pandemic only reinforce this claim. The Indian currency has fallen to 80 rupees per US dollar and the devaluation is likely to continue in the near future.

This only adds more to the bank balance of those who work abroad. It should come as no surprise that Indians find it more lucrative to work in foreign countries for the reasons mentioned above.

Nevertheless, the question of whether it is safe to work in the Gulf countries remains unanswered. The central government, in a recent parliamentary session, revealed data indicating that there has been an increase in the death rate of Indians working abroad, especially in the Gulf countries. The statistics are worrying given that in addition to Indians, there are a large number of people from neighboring countries whose inclination is also towards the Gulf countries.

The job mostly consists of hard work, but due to the high standard of living, the inconvenience takes a back seat. A few years ago, photos of Indians residing in congested areas of the Gulf went viral, but discussion about it was short-lived and Indians continued to flock to these countries.

Plenty of job opportunities and higher salary compared to India were two of the reasons for the propensity of Indians. The period between 2019 and 2021 was when most Indian deaths were reported in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. All of them belonged to the forced labor category. 3,573 Indians are believed to have died in Saudi Arabia in 2020 and the number fell to 2,328 the following year.

The two years were when the world grappled with the covid-19 emergency as people struggled to maintain their livelihoods. According to government data, more than 35 lakh Indians currently reside in the UAE and an average of 5 Indians died every day between 2017 and 2021.

The figure was 2454 in 2020, which rose to 2714 last year. In Qatar, 385 Indians died in 2020 and the number was 420 in 2021. 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 reported deaths were 320 and 352 in 2020 and 2021, respectively. There is currently a large demand for Indian workers in Qatar, with the 2022 FIFA World Cup due to take place from November to December.

The number of deaths reported in Qatar in 2020 was 385, which rose to 420 in 2021. An astonishing 1201 Indian citizens died in Kuwait last year. This data raises a clear question mark over the security offered to Indian workers in these countries.

The International Journal of Community Medicine and Public Health published a study in 2018 that cites cardiac arrest as a common cause of death. Heart diseases, road accidents, drownings, suicides, paralytic attacks, infectious diseases are other causes mentioned as the cause of death.

Apart from COVID-19, strict restrictions on workplaces, living standards, physical and mental pressure, lack of medical awareness, loans, stress are also some of the major contributing factors. Low-income workers have to deal with abuse, heat, humidity, overtime, subpar health and personal safety on top of all the other issues. This proves that the attraction to the Gulf countries can sometimes cost people their lives.


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