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India Trades Off Its Migrant Workers at Low Minimum Wage Requirement

Revised minimum wage for Indian migrant workers in Qatar is less than what the Gulf country has set for all migrant workers, says Bheem Reddy


Rejimon Kuttappan


Indian workers reduced minimum referral wages in the Arab Gulf countries will not be changed, an Indian minister has said in the lower house of the Indian parliament.

In a reply tabled in the parliament on Wednesday, V Muraleedharan, Indian Minister of State at Ministry of External Affairs, said that “at present, there is no proposal for further revision of the MRW, which was reviewed recently, inter-alia, because of economic conditions, due to Covid-19.”

In September 2020, the Indian government had revised the minimum referral wages for Indian workers migrating to Arab Gulf countries.

Now, the revised minimum referral wage in Bahrain, Oman, UAE, and Qatar has been fixed at USD 200.
The minimum referral wage in Saudi Arabia has been fixed at USD 324 and in Kuwait, it has been fixed at USD 245 for work visa holders and USD 196 for domestic sector workers.
“We were hopeful that government would reverse the decision. But we are losing hope now. Since 2020 September, when the circulars were issued by the central government, we had been requesting them to revoke them. But it seems, our plea has fallen on deaf ears,” Bheem Reddy Mandha, a migrant rights activist and president of Andhra-based Emigrants Welfare Forum, said.

According to Bheem Reddy, the impact of the circulars, which reduce wages by 20 to 30 per cent, will affect the income of 90 lakh Indian workers and employees living in the Arab Gulf countries.

“Recently, Qatar had enacted a law to pay workers of all nationalities a minimum wage of 1,000 rials, which is around 274 USD. When a destination country itself is ready to provide USD274 as minimum wages, our India is slashing it down to USD200,” he added.

Last month, Bheem Reddy had coordinated a Gulf workers joint action committee and formed a team to meet parliamentarians requesting them to lobby for revoking the reduced minimum referral wages decision.
Swadesh Parikipandla, a Telugu migrant rights activist, who led the 10-member migrants to New Delhi to meet the parliamentarians, told this reporter that “he felt a bit disappointed.”

“While we were trying to convince an Indian minister about the impact of reduced minimum wages, the minister was telling us to look for jobs in India itself. He was arguing that, the decision was taken because of economic conditions,” Swadesh added.

In December 2020, Telangana’s NRI affairs Minister K.T. Rama Rao had tweeted to India’s External Affairs Minister, Dr. S. Jaishankar, calling the new circulars, “a cause for huge concern” and said “the wages of lakhs of migrant workers from Telangana working in the Gulf countries will get adversely impacted.”
“Already there is considerable distress among all migrant workers due to wage losses as a result of Covid & lockdowns, Rao said, “I request you to use your good offices to ensure that our migrant workers’ interests are protected.”



(The writer is an independent migrant’s rights researcher and journalist who contributes to MFA.)

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MFA is a regional network of non-government organizations (NGOs), associations and trade unions of migrant workers, and individual advocates in Asia who are committed to protect and promote the rights and welfare of migrant workers.

It is guided by a vision of an alternative world system based on respect for human rights and dignity, social justice, and gender equity, particularly for migrant workers.

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