Indians living abroad filed over 60,000 complaints of harassment, sexual and physical abuse as well as other grievances with the country’s missions over the past four years, while the most instances were reported in the Gulf and none in Pakistan, government data show.
A large number of people also complained against the country’s consulates for failing to provide help, raising questions over the efficiency of Indian diplomatic staff.
According to the government, India has the second-largest diaspora in the world after overseas Chinese, with over 25 million of its citizens and people with ancestral links spread across every major part of the world.
The 60,608 complaints were registered under 12 categories of distress with 32 Indian missions abroad. Saudi Arabia saw 12,495 complaints closely followed by 12,110 from Kuwait, 9,786 from Qatar and 6,212 from the UAE.
“I face problems with my employer. He hardly kept any of the promises he made in the job contract. And getting relief from the Indian embassy is not easy either,” said Irfan Ahmed, who hails from Tamil Nadu and works in Saudi Arabia.
The Gulf region is key for New Delhi because nearly seven million Indians live there and Kerala alone accounts for about Rs 60,000 crore a year in remittances from this part of the world.
Most of the complaints from here were related to physical and sexual abuse, as well as non-payment of salaries.
Among the neighbours, there were no records of any complaints from Pakistan in the past four years, while 167 were registered in Bangladesh last year and nine in China.
The US reported 468 complaints and the UK 245 in these four years. A number of complaints also came in from bereaved Indian families about being unable to send or receive the mortal remains of relatives.
“We are trying to sort out this issue on priority, but at times we hit delays while following due process in the host countries,” said an Indian diplomat from a Gulf nation.
Sources said Indian missions have put in place a number of measures in recent years to address these situations, including appointment of welfare officers, 24X7 helplines, establishment of welfare development funds and financial assistance to Indian women duped by their NRI husbands.