NRI status of Indians in Gulf

Published on Feb 15 2011 - - Expat Ride - -

– Mohammed Saifuddin,

The Indians working in the Gulf countries have been demanding from the Indian government since long time to rip off their NRI status. They have been demanding for this because there is a lot of difference in their lifestyles and standard of living compared to those NRIs living in the rest of the world. The major benefit to those who migrated to other countries is that they can get the citizenship of the country after spending a specific time there. But, the situation of Indians in Gulf is different. Their condition is similar to that of the transit passengers; irrespective of the length of stay, they have to finally return home one day or the other.

Due to the lack of higher education facilities in GCC countries, most of the parents are compelled to shift their families to India when their first child passes out from high school. There are many reasons for the Indians living in Gulf to maintain closer social and cultural contacts with their motherland. They are more loyal than other NRIs to their home country and were proved more powerful to India by strengthening its economy by their remittances. Their problems are different from other NRIs.

Many times government of India accepted that the problems of its citizens in the Gulf countries are different from the Indians in other parts of world. But the plea of Gulf Indians to rip off NRI status from them fell on the deaf ears of the successive governments of India.

The year 2003 witnessed the first positive initiative for the Indians in Gulf when the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee realized that the educational needs of children of the Indians living in the Gulf countries are different from the rest of the world. Realizing this fact he assured in Pravasi Bharatiya Divas Sammelan to solve the educational problems of children of Indians in Gulf countries. Subsequently, AICTE issued notification to reserve fifteen percent supernumerary seats above the allotted seats and one third of this quota is specifically reserved for the children of Indians living in the Gulf countries.

That was indeed a welcome decision, but this alone is not enough. Just a single step does not solve all problems but a lot more needs to be done. It was already discussed in this column how far this education quota is beneficial to the children of Gulf NRIs. But the positive fact is that the government of India at least realized that the problems of Indians in the Gulf countries are different from other NRIs. Their problems can not be solved by just reserving supernumerary seats in few courses.

The NRIs living in the countries other than the GCC lives a lavish life and reap a lot of benefits. The major among them is that they can obtain the passport of the country where they are living. On the one hand Indian government has done little for the Indians in Gulf countries and on the other hand offered the golden platter of PIO card to those who have the passports of other countries. Staying away from India for long time and obtaining the passport of other nation does not make any difference to them in India. Being a PIO card holder they can get many benefits in India. The Indians living in Gulf were disappointed with this as they are more loyal and closer to their homeland compared to other NRIs.

Indian government should create a separate category for the Indians living in Gulf through parliamentary act and provide the reservations with other facilities similar to that of other reserved categories. In India different criteria are used for providing reservations to the unrepresented and weaker sections of the society. The variety of criteria includes caste based reservations, gender based reservations, state of domicile, and special category groups like freedom fighters, sportsmen, ex-servicemen, physically handicapped etc. So creating a new category for the Indians living in Gulf countries should not be a problem for the government.

About two decades back some concerned Indians in Saudi Arabia raised this issue and formed an association called NRI Contract Workers Association. The association made several representations to the government with a demand to call the Indians living in Gulf countries as “NRI Contract Workers”. But these representations did not brought any fruits.

The Indian government has already accepted the Indians living in Gulf countries as a separate group, different from other NRIs. In the AICTE notification they were referred as the INDIAN WORKERS IN GULF COUNTRIES. The same methodology should be adopted to create new category through which the NRI tag could be ripped off from the Indians living in Gulf countries.

The social and cultural organizations of Indians in the Gulf countries should raise this demand. This issue should be properly and effectively taken up with the concerned Indian authorities.


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