India declared “national mourning” on January 24 as a mark of respect for Saudi king Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz who died on January 23. The national flag was flown at half-mast throughout the country.
As the 79-year-old king Salman bin Abdul-Aziz, who is not in good health, nominates the princes and reshuffles several top officials of the kingdom, India must put its concerns regarding working and living conditions of the 30-lakh strong Indian diaspora in the kingdom, that sends back Rs 500 billion as remittances every year.
Some 1,000 Indians migrate to the kingdom every day for low-wage jobs in construction sites, hotels, supermarkets, guest houses and the villas and bungalows of the rich Saudis.
According to Amnesty International reports, many of the Indian migrant workers are treated like slaves. The report states that several migrant Indian workers are made to work for some 15-18 hours on all seven days a week, sent to jails for ‘acts’ that the masters deem disrespectful, paid low or irregular wages and also some of their passports are snatched by the masters.
New Delhi had on January 2, 2014 signed a labour cooperation agreement with Riyadh that covered the Indian workers employed as domestic workers, some 25 per cent of the total migrant Indian population. The agreement on labour cooperation for domestic service workers recruitment regulates and checks authenticity of the agreement based on contracts between the employer and the worker, promises action against employing agencies found violating laws and ensures 24 hour assistance to the domestic workers.
However, doubts have been raised over the extensive implementation of the pact in the Saudi homes. Also, the pact covers only the domestic workers and the most exploited population – the construction workers – are out of any security cover in the form of any pact or agreement.