As immigrants scrambled to meet the November 3 Nitaqat (labour law) deadline to legalise their work status in Saudi Arabia, India did not seek an extension unlike many other countries — and with good reason.
According to initial government estimates, over 1.4 million of the about 2.8 million Indians in Saudi Arabia have regularised their stay in the last six months by transferring their services to new employers, by changing job titles, or renewing job permits. A large number of the remaining did not probably need to make changes.
Saudi Arabia has so far regularised the stay of 4 million immigrants.
Not so long ago, there was fear of a massive exodus but Saudi estimates suggest the number of Indians in that country has, in fact, swelled by about 1,00,000.
Officials believe this is because India accepted the new norm at the earliest, rather than protesting like several other countries, and pooled in resources of the vibrant Indian expat community to expedite processes in the Saudi system during this six-month grace period to legalise work status.
It is not that Indians have not had to leave Saudi Arabia after Nitaqat came into effect. But the numbers have been far less than expected.
About 1,30,000 Indians may have already returned from Saudi. Some 92,000 had applied to Indian missions in Riyadh and Jeddah for “emergency certificates” to return and the assessment is that almost all of them have left the Kingdom. Of those coming back, 35,000 are from Uttar Pradesh, 13,000 from Andhra Pradesh, 10,000 from West Bengal, 7,500 from Tamil Nadu and 7,300 from Kerala, a state that traditionally sends the most Indians to the Gulf.
The Indian community that also sends the maximum remittances home — $8,382 million as per 2012 World Bank figures vis a vis Egypt ($5,667), Pakistan ($2,967) and The Phillipines ($2,801) — used social media and other forms of communication to prepare for the deadline. Staff of 10 Indian schools with 50,000 students, parents of the students and 600 volunteers were involved in the exercise. On days, 15,000 Indians needed to be helped with their