In the aftermath of the pandemic, more than 7 lakh labourers returned from six Gulf countries under the Vande Bharat mission, of which many have now managed to return as Covid-19 cases have declined, said external affairs minister Dr S Jaishankar in Parliament on 3 February.
Of the 7,16,662 workers that returned as a result of the pandemic, over 3 lakh came from the UAE, while 1.37 lakh returned from Saudi Arabia.
During the pandemic, Indian missions in the Gulf region extended support to Indians by using the Indian Community Welfare Fund and by coordinating with community associations. This support included expenses related to lodging, air fares and emergency medical care, said Jaishankar.
As the pandemic has receded in recent months, several have managed to return back to these Gulf countries thanks to the air bubbles between India and the six Gulf nations.
“To that end, all Gulf nations were pressed to establish air bubbles and ease visa, travel and health restrictions. All countries in the Gulf have responded favourably to these efforts by the Government as a result of which, there has been a steady flow of returnees back to the Gulf countries,” replied the external affairs ministry in response to a question on whether the government has any proposal to provide rehabilitation or any financial assistance for the Gulf returnees who have lost their jobs.
“Indian Missions/Posts are continuing to pursue with the Governments in the Gulf countries the return of Indian workers, the realization of payments due to them, new recruitment in the light of economic recovery, and other welfare measures as appropriate,’ Jaishankar added.
In January 2021, the government also launched a programme to upskill Indian blue collar workers in the UAE to enhance their employability and wages.
He said he has visited the Gulf countries 13 times and Minister of State for External Affairs V Muraleedharan four times.
“Our objective is to get as many workers back there as possible, as many of them back to their old jobs,” Jaishankar said.
“…Retaining employment, ensuring that wages are paid, ensuring welfare of workers, these have been very much the priority of our missions in the Gulf. From the highest level we have been engaged on this matter and we have been regularly talking to the governments of the Gulf at my level and at the ambassadors’ level,” Jaishankar added.