Jeddah, May 25: With thousands of Indians set to return from Saudi Arabia due to the ‘Nitaqat' law, External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid has said state governments have been “forewarned” so that the situation does not become “unmanageable”.
Khurshid arrived on Friday to hold talks with Saudi Arabia's leadership on the controversial ‘Nitaqat' law, energy security and counter-terrorism cooperation.
Khurshid was received at the airport by Deputy Foreign Minister Abdul Aziz Bin Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz. Khurshid will meet Saudi foreign minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal.
The visit comes at a time when a number of Indians are leaving Saudi Arabia as a result of the country's Nitaqat programme, which is meant to regularise foreign workers.
The ‘Nitaqat' law makes it mandatory for local companies to hire one Saudi national for every 10 migrant workers.
There has been widespread perception that the new policy will lead to denial of job opportunities for a large number of Indians working there.
Those who fail to find another job or a sponsor has to go back. As a result of this law, a number of people who were working without valid work permits and runaways have come under the scanner.
Once the grace period time till July 3 ends, all those expatriates who are found Saudi Arabia without valid papers will be jailed and heavily penalised.
“In terms of the logistics and the effort involved, it obviously is a challenge,” Khurshid said but added that it was not something which could not be met.
“The issue is that we have three months of grace period during which whatever needs to be done has to be done and the numbers are very large.
He said people who come back will have to be rehabilitated.
“We will have to with some efforts, in terms of state governments, to provide them with rehabilitation, quick rehabilitation. Some of them are not as comfortable as people might imagine.
“So I think they will require some hand holding when they get back home. State governments have been forewarned about this that they will have to do some hand holding,” he said.
He said state governments have been informed because all these people coming back have to get emergency certificates.
“They can't be given unless the district authorities to which they belong, verify and give us verified information so that emergency certificates can be given.
“We are in touch with the state governments not only to ensure that they are quick in giving us response for verification but also make arrangements for number of people who finally arrive so that it does not develop into an unmanageable issue.
“We have kept them informed and obviously we will have to work with many other authorities including aviation authorities to get all these people come back quickly,” Khurshid said.
“In terms of the number of people who are getting exit permits (issued by Saudi authorities), it is 500 a day at present,” he said.
“That would not within three months address all the people who have registered and those who will continue to get registered. We have made some suggestions and I will also talk about what can be done,” he said.
Khurshid said that contrary to perceptions, there are more people from Uttar Pradesh than Kerala who are being affected by the Saudi law.
“This whole thing started by people from Kerala being extremely worried. But as the numbers tumble out, we find that Uttar Pradesh has much larger numbers than Kerala. So we have to deal with people right across.”
As per official figures, off the total processed applications of 56,734, there are 21, 331 people from Uttar Pradesh as against 3,610 from Kerala.
As of May 20, 75,000 Indians have registered with the Indian Embassy in Riyadh and the Consulate in Jeddah to be processed and be send back. There are nearly three million Indians in Saudi Arabia.
Nearly 57,000 applications have been processed but it is estimated that many more will approach the Embassy in the coming days.
The Saudi government was implementing the Nitaqat law to cut unemployment in the country. Nearly three million Indians are currently working in Saudi Arabia.
Khurshid is also carrying a personal letter from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for Saudi king Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud.