The TRS government has said that it was working on an NRI policy and had even spoken of it during the recent election campaigns, but the policy is yet to see the light of day.

Telangana CM KCR urges Gulf migrants to return but NRI policy still not in sightFile photo: Telangana CM KCR
news Migration Thursday, October 24, 2019 - 15:39

40-year-old Hyderabad-native Mohammed* lived in Saudi Arabia for close to a decade. Working as a draftsman in the Gulf, he lived there with his wife and two children. But in 2017, when the Saudi government decided to hike the ‘expatriate dependent fee’, his life was put into turmoil.

The Saudi government planned to increase the then existing expatriate dependent fee of 1200 Saudi Riyal per year, per dependent member of the expatriate family, in phases to around 4,800 Saudi Riyal per year, by July 2020.

Foreseeing that he would be unable to keep up with the huge increase, Mohammed returned home in 2018, but his situation has only gotten worse as he remains unemployed and his family faces difficulty in reintegrating into Hyderabad culture.

“I had a splendid life in Saudi with my family but I had to pack my bags as I was not in a position to pay the dependency fee as per the new policy of the Saudi government,” he tells TNM.

The state has a large number of people who migrate to the Middle East and Mohammed is not alone.

“There are many people like me who hail from Hyderabad and other parts of Telangana working in the Gulf but were forced to return home,” he says.

It was earlier this month that Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao said that he would soon be visiting Gulf countries to urge people from Telangana to return home, promising to provide them job opportunities.

“The situation in Telangana is not what it used to be in the past. There are ample opportunities here now. Several construction projects are happening in Hyderabad. Since there is no availability of the 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),” KCR had said at the time.

The statement came as the Saudi government decided to relook at its labour policy to promote more jobs for their own citizens. But what about those who already returned home to Telangana over the last few years sensing Saudi’s growing crackdown on expatriates?

One such expatriate Aslam*, a 33-year-old software engineer, says that he shifted to Saudi in 2014, but returned in 2019 with his wife and two children, under circumstances similar to Mohammed’s.

“Our future is uncertain, most Gulf returnees are facing hardships mainly due to the slowdown of the economy in the Gulf since the last few years and the shift in labour policy, which resulted in a decrease of jobs for migrants,” he says.

“Job hunting after returning home has also become a herculean task as there is a huge gap in the technologies used in Saudi and other Gulf countries and India. We are not getting jobs as per our profile, experience and expectations in our field. Call centre jobs, marketing and sales jobs offer only a meagre salary of Rs 15,000 per month in India, which is not enough. The value of the Saudi Riyal was also higher,” Aslam points out.

The main demand of these expatriates is job opportunities. They urge the state government to come forward and lend a helping hand, which could bring down their mental agony and their financial crisis as well. Despite this, little has been done.

No NRI policy in sight

Speaking to TNM, activist and Emigrants Welfare Forum President Bheem Reddy says, “The Telangana government does not have a policy for the rehabilitation and welfare of Gulf returnees. The government should come forward to set up small and medium scale industries, and facilitate the economic development of Gulf returnees with new schemes.”

“The government also should ideally implement an NRI Policy to decrease the woes of Gulf returnees,” he adds.

The TRS government has repeatedly stated that it was working on an NRI policy which would be made public soon, and had even spoken of it during their recent election campaigns, but the policy is yet to see the light of day.

Bheem Reddy points out that while there was a small wing working on the issue in the General Administration Department (GAD), it was grossly inadequate.

“I would even suggest that the government form a Telangana NRI welfare board with a Chairman, which can be a Cabinet rank position. This will be a major step towards solving the problems of Gulf returnees,” Bheem Reddy says.

“The Telangana government is getting a huge amount monthly as local tax from NRIs. Our main demand is to allot Rs 500 crore in the annual budget for their welfare,” he adds.

Govt yet to act

Speaking to TNM, Rasheed, Deputy Secretary Dy Secretary (Protocol & NRI Affairs) under GAD, says that the state government is examining both proposals – a feasible NRI policy and creating job opportunities for Gulf returnees.

Chitti Babu, in-charge of the NRI Cell under GAD, tells TNM that approximately 10 to 12 lakh people hailing from the erstwhile Nizamabad, Karimnagar and Adilabad districts are estimated to be working in six Middle East countries – Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, UAE, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman.

“However, migrants from Hyderabad are less compared to those from the districts,” he says.

While the total number of Gulf returnees is unclear, Chitti Babu says that 600 people hailing from Telangana had returned last year after the amnesty announced by the UAE.

“The issue of migration as labourers is prevailing in the state from 2014. The state government has been taking up such issues with the External Affairs ministry, several embassies and High Commissioners for the welfare of the returnees,” he adds.

“The government should set up new industries and produce more materials and commodities as there is no dearth of technology and manpower in our state. With this, the state’s growth rate can be increased,” Aslam laments.

*Names changed

Wajeed Ullah Khan is a Hyderabad-based freelance journalist who writes predominantly on the issues surrounding old city. He can be contactede at wuk040@gmail.com 

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