With the rise in COVID-19 cases, there is also the possibility of a ‘reverse’ migration scenario that will bring labourers back to Telangana and Andhra.

Gulf migrant labourers from Telangana and AP fear unemployment Image for representation
Coronavirus Coronavirus Wednesday, April 15, 2020 - 17:21

The national lockdown over the COVID-19 pandemic has sparked fears of job losses among migrant labourers from Andhra Pradesh and Telangana in the United Arabia Emirates (UAE), Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain and Kuwait.

Almost 2.7 billion workers globally— four in five of the world’s workforce — has been impacted by full or partial lockdown measures, according to the International Labour Organization (ILO).

According to some estimates, that there are over 87 lakh immigrants from India in Gulf countries, of which, around 30 lakh migrant labourers from the Telugu states.

Speaking to TNM, migrant rights activist and President of the Emigrants Welfare Forum, Bheem Reddy, said, “There is a possible chance of several lakhs of people losing their jobs in the Gulf. Employees of the hospitality sector, construction and security sectors will be affected. Some companies may ask people to go on paid leave.”

Bheem pointed out that both Telugu states together will likely see 7.5 lakh people returning home. 1.20 lakh people will return per month over a period of time.

N Gangadhar from Bheemgal in Nizamabad district, Telangana, returned on leave from Bahrain a month before the lockdown. He said, “There is uncertainty about our jobs remaining stable. My one-month leave is over, but the situation back in Kuwait is concerning. I'm prepared to stay back and take up agriculture again as I'm not sure if my visa will get extended.”

Gangadhar, who has three acres of agricultural land, has been a gulf migrant for 15 years as a machine driver for a construction company based in Manama, Bahrain.

Gangula Muralidhar Reddy, an NRI based in Kuwait, said, “Third-rung workers are facing a serious crisis. They are running short of money and groceries. It becomes difficult to cope in small rooms.”

Muralidhar, who is a social worker in Mangaf, Kuwait, said, “People who are working here as house maids were abandoned in some cases, with nowhere to go. People are reaching out to find people who can help.”

According to him, governments should work for the safety and repatriation of such people.

SL Naveen, a 26-year-old labourer from Kamareddy district is a supply chain worker in a well-known private manpower company based in Dubai. He said, “For now, they are providing us with food and giving us accommodation. But they have already informed us that we won't be getting a salary for this lockdown period. I'm not sure if things will be the same.”

Families of labourers, however, are hoping that their loved ones would be able to return to India, even if there is no work. With the rise in COVID-19 cases, there is also the possibility of a ‘reverse’ migration scenario that will bring labourers back to Telangana and Andhra.

Several labourers in small-scale jobs are looking to fly back to India soon after restrictions on international travel are lifted. Some have also suggested that the pandemic has left workers in a state of psychological depression that’s pushing them to go back to their hometowns.

In October 2019, Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao (KCR) urged migrants to return home, promising to provide them job opportunities in the construction sector in Hyderabad and other parts of the state. At that time, he had said, “Since there is no availability of workforce here, workers are mobilised from other places in the country. People from Telangana have gone abroad in search of work; people from other states are coming here for work. There should be a change in this scenario (sic).”

Bheem Reddy foresees a crisis-driven opportunity domestically. “Our states too will start stimulating the economy through different packages and means. Governments should consider employing these migrant labourers as they are skilled with training as per international benchmarks and can be used in different projects given the lack of skilled workforce here. Such decisions can fuel confidence among people,” he said.

Read:

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