India has expressed concern with Saudi Arabia over its new policy of reserving 10 per cent jobs for locals – a decision which will affect over three lakh low and semi-skilled Indian workers with a sizable number coming from the States of Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.
Minister of State for External Affairs E Ahamed, who is in Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan, to attend the Asian Development Dialogue, on Friday met Prince Abdulaziz bin Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs, and conveyed the anxiety and concerns of India on the issue.
The Prince assured Ahamed that Saudi will always give the best consideration for Indians working in the Kingdom and values its very cordial relations with India.
The Saudi Minister, who is here to attend the conference, said he will bring the matter to the notice of the Labour Ministry and concerned authorities when he gets back to Riyadh.
On his part, Ahamed told the Prince that India enjoys the best of relations with Saudi and hope that no step will be taken that will adversely affect expatriates in the Kingdom.
The Indian Embassy has also taken up the matter with the Saudi Government, Ahamed said adding, “There is no panic situation as of now. The Indian Government will pursue the matter in the best possible way.”
Overseas Indian Affairs Minister Vayalar Ravi on Thursday said he had asked the Indian Ambassador to Saudi Arabia to take up the issue with Riyadh and its Labour Ministry and ensure that there would be no job loss for Indians on a mass scale.
The new labour policy, called Nitaqat, might lead to the denial of job opportunities for large number of expatriates from India, especially from Kerala, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said in a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
“It has come to my notice that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has initiated strong steps to implement Nitaqat law to expand employment avenues to its nationals which may ultimately lead to the denial of job opportunities for expatriates,” he said.
In 2011, 2.28 million Keralites were working abroad. Of them, some 570,000 are in Saudi Arabia, a report said.
(With inputs from agencies)