India has a long and storied tradition of migrant workers seeking their fortune abroad to escape poverty back home. More than 30 million Indians are estimated to now be living outside of India. Of those, many go to the oil-rich Gulf states, which are famously dependent on foreign labor.But this too is no picnic. Treatment of foreign workers in Muslim countries is often terrible. A Non-Resident Indian (NRI) migrant worker living in a Gulf country which just had its 31st Indian suicide this year, sheds light on their despair in an op-ed for The Hindu:
. . . working conditions tend to be harsh especially if you are a construction worker. Some unscrupulous employers (and not all) delay or don’t pay wages on time, physically abuse workers, retain passports to restrict labour mobility. Other employers have gone bankrupt due to worsening economic conditions, thereby leaving many workers stranded with no jobs, shelter and money. This and other factors could have prompted these workers to resort to the extreme step of taking their lives.
The author calls for the Indian government to step up its efforts to assist migrant workers abroad, whose yearly remittances of almost $60 billion are a boon to the underdeveloped Indian economy.The bad treatment received by often desperate migrant workers in non-Western countries is something that doesn’t show up on many Western radar screens. But as India’s clout slowly increases, the treatment of Indians living abroad will become a more salient international issue, and discussions like these are likely to become much more common as time goes on.