Muscat: “There has been no mass exodus. In fact, there has been some net increase,” said Indra Mani Pandey, ambassador of India to Oman, while commenting on the Indian expat population in Oman.
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The economic downturn has resulted in many companies cutting costs and laying off workers. However, the total number of Indian expats in Oman has risen, although not at a very high rate, Pandey added.
“The net increase is not very high; it’s a small net increase. But it’s an indication that there has been fresh recruitment also, while some people may have to leave their jobs and go back to India,” he added, speaking exclusively to TimesTV.
Pandey addressed several issues raised by viewers during an interview with TimesTV’s Shruthi Nair.
He revealed that his embassy had approached the Oman government to discuss a minimum wage for expat workers.
An Omani citizen working in the private sector is entitled to earn a minimum wage of OMR325, according to a ministerial decision passed in 2013.
Non-Omani workers, however, have no minimum wage limit. “As of now, there is no minimum wage, though we have requested the government of Oman that it would be in the interest of the workers, as well as Omani employers, that there is a minimum wage so that even expatriate workers are able to live a life, of a minimum standard, and their lawful employers are able to meet the legal requirements of the government of Oman,” the ambassador said.
This applies to housemaids, as well those who are advised to work for an employer based in Oman only through the embassy’s e-migrate system. “It (E-Migrate) is an electronic system to regulate all the Indians who want to go abroad and work, who require immigration clearance.”
They should first register through that. And all the employers abroad, who want to employ Indians, have to place this requirement electronically through that system. Then the recruitment process starts, a contract is generated through the system and we have the information about the employer and employee.” He added, “We would like maids and servants to come through that system.”
This system is especially important for housemaids in order to protect their rights and interests.
“Up to July 15 this year, we have had up to 92 cases of Indian maid/servants coming to the embassy, seeking the embassy’s help and going back to India. We work with the Ministry of Manpower and other agencies of the government of Oman to enable them to return to India,” he said, explaining how housemaids ignorant of rules and legal channels can be exploited.
“We would like maids and servants to be recruited only after we give a No Objection Certificate (NOC) from the embassy, which will ensure that some of the obligations that we want employers to have, with regards to maidsservants are met. “We have brought that (trafficking of maids) issue to the government of Oman.”
The Indian Embassy, on a regular basis, also receives cases of stranded workers, who aren’t given their salaries for months, and do not have valid labour cards, and don’t have the means to return back to their home countries.
“Last year, we had about 2,200 workers approaching us overall throughout the year. This year we have already reached the number of 1,200 workers approaching us. We have been able to deal with all those cases because we received full cooperation from Omani authorities,” Pandey said, highlighting that the increase in the number of people approaching the embassy for help could be because of the economic slowdown and the resultant monetary difficulties faced by the employers.
The Indian Embassy is also gearing up for the celebration of India’s 70th Independence Day, Pandey said.“There will be a number of events, which will recognise and commemorate the event. We request that the Indian community participate in those events with enthusiasm. We would need support from community organisations, which organise these events sometimes,” he said, urging members of the Indian Community to be a part of the Independence Day celebrations at the embassy next month.