NEW DELHI: Quite often, India gets vocal about the lives of expatriates living in Gulf countries only during the time of crisis. Be it ISIS raiding over Iraq and Syria, capturing the Indian nuns or perhaps, Iraq overthrowing the Kuwaiti regime which caused a serious refugee conundrum. But right now, as the oil prices are slipping down and hitting a plummet, the lives of Indian expatriates in Gulf countries is getting difficult.

Thousands of expatriates who are a regular and steady supply of remittances for India’s GDP are sending their families back home as the Gulf countries have started imposing strict measures and are also implementing tax on the income of expatriates. In particular, Oman has carried out the strictest austerity measures that are likely to affect the monthly expenses of expatriates.

Apart from Dubai, all the other Gulf economies are very much dependent on oil. As ‘oil has become the curse of the region’, these economies have been egregiously affected by the lowering of oil prices which is causing massive unemployment and job cuts as well as cancellation of increments.

“A few companies have cancelled their projects. The only silver lining is Expo 2020 to be hosted in Dubai where industry hopes to sign major projects,” Dubai-based KV Shamsudeen of the Pravasi Bandhu Welfare Trust said.

According to Indian diplomats in Dubai, a number of companies have either laid off staff or cut down on salaries.

Many people are sending back their families because living expenses have increased. Bhaskaran Arunam Singh from Thiruvananthapuram, a foreman in a construction company in Sharjah, said, “A small family needs at least 10,000 dirhams in a month for a decent life. I have been living here with my family of four for last 20 years. But I had to send my elder son home for Class 12. School fees, rent and travel expenses have gone up.”

“Earlier I could live with 6,000 Dirhams. This has become impossible in Sharjah. Rent for a two bedroom house is 25,000 Dirhams to 35,000 Dirhams in many areas. I live in National Paints area in Sharjah. Rents have touched 45,000 Dirhams in Ajman too,” he said.

Indian consul general in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, stated that falling oil prices have had a cascading effect in Saudi Arabia and Indians have been hit by retrenchment.

Meanwhile Oman has bought in a new rule that will not allow expatriate workers who leave their jobs and the sultanate to return with a no-objection certificate and take up new employment. They will now have to remain out of Oman for two years.

Thus, it is getting difficult for Indians to work in Gulf countries, an emerging feature which is not being talked about by the media pundits. It would have repercussions on the Indian GNP and would also make it difficult for Indians to get jobs in the Gulf region.

As of now, the Ministry of External affairs has not taken notice of these developments which would have far-reaching consequences.

(The writer is a doctoral student at JNU, New Delhi)