Indian workers' death in Gulf, contradictory reply in Parliament

Image courtesy: Christopher Pike

New Delhi | Dec 23, 2018

[Click here to read the story on the Deccan Herald website]

The government has given contradictory replies in Parliament on the deaths of Indian workers in Gulf countries over the years while a recent RTI response has suggested that at least 24,570 Indian workers have died in Gulf countries since 2012. 

In response to a written question in Lok Sabha on December 12, the Minister of State for External Affairs V K Singh has said that Indian missions abroad maintain information in respect of the death of Indian nationals in their jurisdiction, "but not specifically of workers".

Singh pegged the deaths of "Indian nationals" in United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia between 2014 and 2018 at 28,523.  Interestingly, Singh himself had in a written reply in May 2016 has said that the number of deaths of Indian workers is reported from time to time by the Indian Missions abroad. He also provided figures of deaths of Indian workers in 2015 in these six Gulf countries and Iraq in that reply.  While the latest reply claimed that there are no statistics about workers, an earlier reply in July 2016 by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) through its then Minister of State M J Akbar has also provided details of deaths of Indian workers between 2013 and 2016. The deaths were 23,981.

The DH on November 7 reported activist Venkatesh Nayak's RTI which said at least 24,570 Indian workers have died in six Gulf countries. An analysis based on RTI replies and official documents showed had shown that around 10 Indian workers die in Gulf countries every day and for every USD one billion remitted to India, 117 deaths occur. These numbers could increase once the complete figures for Kuwait and UAE are made available.

Commenting on the contradictions in replies, Nayak said, overall death figures for Gulf countries disclosed under RTI or to Parliament in July 2016 were lower for every year in comparison with December 2018 data.

"While Lok Sabha was told 5,388 deaths had occurred in 2014, the RTI and the July 2016 data revealed only 4,395 deaths during this period. The Lok Sabha was told that 5,786 deaths occurred in 2015, whereas RTI and the July 2016 data accounted for only 4,702. In 2016, 6,013 deaths occurred- Lok Sabha was informed but the RTI and the July 2016 data revealed only 4,047 deaths- almost 2,000 less," he said.

Read coverage in the Deccan Herald print edition here: "RTI: over 24k dead in Gulf"

Read Venkatesh Nayak's blog post on the subject here: Central government's flip-flop in the Lok Sabha over death statistics of Indians in Gulf countries: An analysis