Number of Indians committing suicide in Gulf countries rose to 322 in 2017 from 303 in 2016, reveals RTI reply

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For many Indians, the term “Gulf nation” symbolises hope, a sign of good life and prosperity. Gulf countries attract Indians in large numbers, especially from Kerala. But sadly, the ground reality that has emerged paints a different picture altogether — with reports of workplace harassment, “horrible bosses” and difference in culture, many Indians are quitting their dream jobs and coming back. Also, some disillusioned with their lives abroad have unfortunately committed suicide.

In response to a Right to Information query, the Indian embassies in Dubai, Muscat, Kuwait and Riyadh revealed that in 2017, 322 Indians had taken their lives in the four countries. The highest number of suicides was recorded in Saudi Arabia at 117, followed closely by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) with 116. In Oman, 46 Indians committed suicide, and in Kuwait, 43.

The figure stood at 303 in 2016, marking a spurt in the number of Indians in the Gulf resorting to suicide.

Social workers believe that a number of problems, including financial mismanagement, family issues back home and unstable job conditions, could be behind the rise in the number of suicides among Indians in Gulf nations.

Shaji Sebastian, who has been a social worker in Oman for the past three decades, said migrant workers were under tremendous stress at present. “There are difficulties in a foreign land,” Sebastian said. “Those who migrate should be mentally ready to face it. Even a small issue disturbs them a lot. They forget the fact that they are in a foreign land and have to adjust accordingly.”

This year has been no different for Indians in West Asia. According to a reply to an RTI query, which revealed data up to 10 June, 32 Indians committed suicide in Oman, 55 in UAE, 20 in Kuwait and 49 in Saudi Arabia.

Jose Chacko, a financial analyst in Oman for the past two decades, said a majority of the migrant workers struggle with their finances. “They spend more than what they earn. Even their families back home don’t realise the facts and do the same. Finally, this person falls into a debt trap, which leads to unnecessary stress, disappointment and ultimately suicide,” Chacko explained.

Meanwhile, Mini Mohan, a migrant rights activist in India who is actively involved in pre-departure training for potential migrants, said psychological reasons lead to suicides. “Some of the migrants fail to understand the realities and their responsibilities. They easily fall into the mental stress trap and commit suicide,” she said.

Mohan and her team are now focussing on educating potential migrants on the situations they are bound to face in a Gulf country in their pre-departure training modules.

Meanwhile, Bino PP, an Indian who has lived in Oman for 30 years, said the current economic condition in the Gulf could also be a reason for the rise in the number of suicides. “Many companies are falling apart due to the shaky oil prices and tense political conditions. Hundreds of workers are left in the lurch every week, or every day. Many don’t even have proper shelter. Some are strong enough to overcome the tough times, and some are not,” Bino added.

According to data released by the public prosecution of Oman, 15 of the 25 suicide cases registered in 2016 were of Indians.

Meanwhile, data from the Indian government revealed that the number of emigration clearances granted to Indians headed to the Gulf for employment halved to 3.7 lakh in 2017 from 7.6 lakh in 2015.

In 2017, UAE emerged as the most-preferred destination of Indian workers, with nearly 1.5 lakh emigration clearances. Saudi Arabia relinquished its status as the most-preferred destination among Indian workers with around 78,000 emigration clearances in 2017, a 74 percent drop from around 3 lakh in 2015.

The nationalisation drive adopted by the Gulf countries, aimed at promoting job opportunities for local residents, is believed to be the reason for the fall in jobs for expats.

However, according to a recent World Bank report, India continued to be the top recipient of remittances from overseas, which added up to $69 billion in 2017. Roughly 56 percent of the total came from members of the Gulf Cooperation Council, including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, UAE and Oman.

(Originally published in the Firstpost.)

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