Nitaqat and after
At last Nitaqat deadline of November 4 is over. Now, it is the time of repatriation of foreigners who come under the new law of Saudisation of Saudi Arabia’s (SA) job market. As every body knows, Gulf countries have been thinking of localisation of their employment sector since long. The reason is said to be the growing unemployment among their own people. But, since most of the business enterprises belong to foreign entrepreneurs, the rulers’ programmes were not materialising as they planned. But a few months back, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia took a firm decision to implement Nitaqat rule. This step led to repatriation of lakhs of employees if themselves or their employers do not comply with the rule. It is said that SA does have more than 20 lakhs foreigners as labour force. The Kingdom’s design is to ensure a certain percentage of this employment for their countrymen. Business firms with less than 10 employees are exempted from this law.
The return of Indians from Saudi Arabia is really an alarming issue for our country. There are two main reasons for the grave situation. One is the volume of foreign currency country receives every month. Secondly, the rehabilitation of the returnees. According to World Bank reports, Indians working in SA remitted home US$ 8.4 billion in 2012. While Egypt’s remittance was US$ 5.7, Pakistan did US$ 3 and Philippines had to satisfy with US$ 2.9 billion.
But, even though the country has been fearing a worst form of exodus, now the government as well as the families back home are having sigh of relief, thanks to the various factors working in their favour. First of all, Government of India and state governments took the matter seriously as soon as SA signaled months ago about the stringent rule in the store. Foreign ministry had “forewarned” state governments so that the situation would not turn “unmanageable”. At the same time the Indians living in SA utilized the grace period for regularising their documents. As a result, it is estimated that Indians returning home from SA will be just around 100,000. UP will have to receive 35,000 while AP will have 13,000. West Bengal expects 10,000 and Tamil Nadu 7,500. Even though Kerala exports the major chunk of its man power, the number of Non Resident Keralites (NRKs) returned home from SA due to the new rule is 13,735 as on November 6, 2013, that is two days after the expiry of the grace period on the November 4.
Kerala CM Oommen Chandy told that his cabinet has formulated a package programme of the NRKs from SA. First of all it has been made sure that the returnees’ passport would not bear the stamp barring them to go to any other Gulf country for employment. Government will help them to seek jobs in Gulf and also for employment back home. Assistance of prominent Gulf employers will be sought in this respect. Some rich and prominent NRK entrepreneurs have already extended their offer to employ the SA returnees. Kerala Government will avail the services of Job Portal system under the NORKA and ODEPEC for job opportunities for NRKs. Government has decided to deploy the facilities of its departments like agriculture, industries, fisheries, dairy, etc. for ensuring job opportunities for the NRKs. Interest free loans will be facilitated from government’s financial institutions. Nodal officers will be appointed for the smooth functioning of the new schemes. Skilled workers and semi skilled workers will be able to get employments through co-operative societies, etc. Those who look for avenues to start small scale industries with the capital investment of 20 lakks will get 5 % interest as subsidy. State Government plans to seek central government’s aid in this regard. Co-operative department’s assistance will be sought to aid those who plan to launch enterprises like shopping malls, dry wash industry, etc.
Even though we do witness a windfall of promises from authorities, we will have to wait and see what will in reality. Only relief is that happen the small number of NRKs is coming back from SA. Another silver line in the otherwise gloomy sky is the news we get from SA regarding the actual plan of Saudi rulers. It is said that their primary objective is to get rid of trouble making people, especially labour force from Islamic states like Egypt, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Iran, Yemen, etc. and even Palestine. Al-Qaeda and Taliban like outfits operate through the expats from those countries and they always pose threat to their country and the administration. Indians are not that dangerous. Even though Indians are having their own political and philosophical schools of thoughts, once they reach the foreign soil most of them keep their aforementioned thoughts in their mind and prefer to concentrate in hard work and make quick money. They might send money to their ideological organisations back home, but always ‘play safe games’ abroad. So, ‘Gulf experts’ believe that the rules will be relaxed after a while.
On top of all, everybody including the rulers of the Gulf kingdoms are very much aware of a glaring fact: The people of those parts of the world are still not used to hard work. They believe that they are born to live as “bosses”. Because their growth as rich countries did not happen through evolutions. It came as ‘golden showers’ from the blue. The fortune is linked with oil which is less than a century old as far as Gulf is concerned. So, the “bosses” happily draw fat salaries, but actual work in the offices and institutions are done by “miskin” (Arabic word meaning ‘poor’) Asians, let alone the manual labour. This is what one can witness in Gulf offices and firms where some sort of localisation had already been implemented long ago.
At last the people’s inquisitiveness found an end – CPM Kerala state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan is discharged by CBI Special Court from the Rs 374.50 crores SNC-Lavalin case. It was concerning the alleged kick backs Pinarayi engineered against the multi crore contract to the Canadian SNC-Lavalin firm. CBI had alleged that Pinarayi had initiated the contract during his stint as the power minister in 1990s. Since the last few years ‘Will he ? Won’t he ?’ question regarding the chances of SNC–Lavalin case has been setting the agenda for the CPM in-fights as well as Kerala politics. Pinaryi Vijayan’s bête noir, opposition leader in the Kerala assembly and veteran CPM leader VS Achuthanandan has been leading a mutiny within the party against the party supremo. Lavalin case was always on top of the agenda for these fights. Since the central leadership and political bureau have always been with Pinarayi due to more reasons than necessary, VS was always losing the party positions despite maintaining the government positions like those of CM and opposition leader.
A few years ago he lost the coveted PB membership and couple of months before he was censured by the PB for public utterances against the state leadership (read Pinarayi Vijayan). Now, CBI Special Court has discharged Pinarayi and his close aides from the SNC-Lavalin case; and, VS condition is no envy to any body. Hereafter he will not be in a position to launch camouflaged missiles of allegations against the state party boss, because, Pinarayi has turned much powerful than in the past. Even though he has been holding the state leadership in his iron fist since more than one and half decades he could not set his eye on any government position, thanks to the Lavalin case in which he was the 7th accused.
The same time VS became the embodiment of anti-corruption faction in the party and also the man representing the popular mood. Therefore, PB had to brush aside the state committee decision not to field VS in the election fray both in 2006 and in 2011 and give him party ticket to contest. Both occasions, he won and took over as CM and opposition leader respectively. Now, Pinarayi has achieved the eligibility to join parliamentary politics as and when he likes to. So, nonagenarian VS’s political lime light is by all means going to fade. Where as Pinarayi, in his early seventies, is all set to project himself as a straight forward leader who was crucified for nothing, due to false case. Even though CBI is reported to be going to appeal, observes do not expect anything exciting to come out from it. KPCC chief Ramesh Chennithala has expressed his dissatisfaction towards the court verdict. CM Oommen Chandy has opted to keep mum. BJP state chief VM Muraleedharan has stated that the verdict is the result of an unholy nexus between Congress and CPM. He believes that Congress has abused the CBI for the sake of a post poll alliance between the Lefts and Congress.
Oommen Chandy is equally upset as VS because, CPM-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) has been agitating for the resignation of the CM in the wake of the Solargate scandal. First they staged secretariat siege. Then they came out to block the CM on the roads. The other day CM’s car was stoned by alleged LDF workers; an injured CM was hopitalised. But the total failure of the secretariat siege had definitely demoralized LDF and CPM leadership as well as the rank and file. But, that Pinarayi has been exempted from the Lavalin case itself has boosted the morale of the LDF and CPM workers and leaders.
The exoneration of Pinarayi from the Lavalin case will strengthen the CPM And LDF to launch massive and powerful agitations pressing for the CM’s resignation. On top of all these, a Kavaitha Pillai case and the arrest of the lady has started to upset the UDF apple cart. Kavitha is alleged to have swindled crores of rupees by promising medical college seats both within and without Kerala state. Congress leader and Palakkad municipal chairman Abdul Khudoos has alleged that Palakkad MLA and CM’s trusted follower Shafi Parambil had introduced Kavitha Pillai to him in connection with a project for solid waste treatment. Kavitha produced a certificate from Kerala State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) during her meeting with Khudoos ! Crime magazine Editor TP Nandakumar says that himself and kavaitha Pillai had met CM Ommen Chandy and CM had directed them to contact KSPCB. This is a hard blow to the CM after Saritha Nair’s Solargate. CM's bad time seems to be never ending.