10 Indians die every day in 6 Gulf countries
As per the data tabled in the Parliament this April, around 88 lakh (87.76 lakh to be precise) Indians work in the six Gulf countries of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE); but, for every $1 billion they remitted back home to India in the six months of 2018, there were at least 117 deaths. This works out to 10 deaths per day.
Venkatesh Nayak, research scholar and programme coordinator of Commonwealth Human Right Initiative (CHRI), who procured this information through right to information (RTI) applications and researching proceedings in Parliament,  says, “Not much is known about the human cost of such earnings which expand the country’s forex reserves quietly.’’
Another revelation under RTI is that during the first half of this financial year alone (April-September 2018), Indian blue-collared workers in these countries had remitted $33.47 billion back home. In fact, as per the World Bank estimates, Indian workers in UAE had remitted $72.3 billion between 2012-2017 whereas Indians in the US  remitted $68.37 billion, UK at $23 billion and a mere $17.3 billion from Canada, during this period.
Observes Mr Nayak, “It appears that blue collared workers are contributing more to India’s forex kitty than the white-collared workers in the developed countries.’’
Mr Nayak filed an online RTI application in the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA). The information he sought was the year-wise list of the names, age, sex, and occupation of Indian workers, who died in the countries of Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the UAE between 1 January 2012 onwards; and the cause of death as mentioned in the death certificates of every deceased Indian worker referred to at para 1 above for the same period. 
"The Central Public Information officer (CPIO) of MEA promptly transferred the RTI application to the CPIOs of the Indian embassies situated in the six Gulf countries. “It appears that MEA does not maintain data about the deaths of Indian workers unless queries are raised in Parliament,’’ Mr Nayak said.
The CPIOs of the embassy of Kuwait (which had all this information on its website since 2014), Bahrain, Oman and Qatar provided the data. Strangely though, the CPIO as well as the First Appellate Authority of UAE refused information citing Section 8 (1)(i), which exempts the disclosure of personal information which may cause unwarranted invasion of privacy of the individual. 
Mr Nayak says, “While the Indian embassy in Kuwait displays the good practice of proactive information, the embassy in UAE refuses even the basic data. The other Indian embassies have refused details regarding the deaths of Indian workers sought in the RTI application by either citing Section 8(1)(j) of the RTI Act or by claiming that the information was held in multiple files in disaggregate form. They are striving to adopt the lowest common denominator instead of following the sterling example of the Indian mission in Kuwait.’’
In order to fill up the gaps in the data (between 2012-2013, which the Indian embassy in Kuwait did not display) and the data which UAE refused to disclose, Mr Nayak researched the websites of the Lok Sabha  and the Rajya Sabha  in Parliament and found the required data, to compile a sordid picture of the vulnerability of blue collar workers to fatalities. 
The following are the trends, analysed by Mr Nayak: 
  • Available data indicates that at least 24,570 Indian workers died in the six Gulf countries between 2012 and mid-2018. This number could increase if the complete figures for Kuwait and UAE are made available publicly. This amounts to more than 10 deaths per day during this period
  • Most number of deaths occurred in Saudi Arabia during this period while Bahrain accounted for the least number, i.e., 1,317 deaths. The most number of deaths occurred in 2015 – 4,702 whereas the smallest number was reported in 2012- 2,375
  • By July-August 2018, already 1,656 deaths had occurred
  • Only the CPIO of the Indian embassy in Qatar provided some information about the cause of deaths. While more than 80% of the deaths have been attributed to natural causes, almost 14% of the deaths occurred in accidents. Almost 6% of these deaths were due to suicides.
Comparing datasets of deaths with datasets relating to remittances, Mr Nayak observes that, while the World Bank publishes estimates of remittances from every country across the world, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) website does not have information of country wise data regarding remittances.
Here is the comparative analysis of the data regarding remittances received from Indians working in Gulf countries with the datasets relating to death:
  • Indians working in the Gulf countries accounted for more than half of the remittances that India received from all over the world between 2012-2017. While India received a total of $410.33 billion in remittances from the world over, remittances from the Gulf countries accounted for $209.07 billion.


  • According to World Bank estimates, UAE topped the list of Gulf countries from which remittances were received at $72.30 billion followed by Saudi Arabia ($62.60 billion); Kuwait ($25.77 billion); Qatar ($22.57 billion); Oman ($18.63 billion) and Bahrain came last with $7.19 Billion.


  • When compared with the dataset regarding deaths of Indian workers obtained through RTI and parliamentary records, there were more than 187 deaths for every billion (US) dollars received from Oman during 2012-17; more than 183 deaths for every billion (US) dollars received from Bahrain and 162 deaths for every billion (US) dollars received from Saudi Arabia. Qatar accounted for more than 74 deaths for every billion (US) dollars received while the lowest figure of 71 deaths for every billion (US) dollars received was from UAE.


  • Interestingly, while UAE was the source of the highest amount of remittances from Indian workers during the years 2012-2017 ($72.3 billion), it also had the lowest deaths per billion (US) dollars remitted to India (a little more than 71 deaths). Conversely, Bahrain, which came at the bottom of the list in terms of total remittances during the same period ($7.19 billion only), stands at the second place in terms of the number of deaths of Indian workers per billion (US) dollars remitted (a little more than 183 deaths). In other words every billion (US) dollars earned by Indian workers remitted from Bahrain cost much more in terms of deaths than a similar amount remitted from UAE.


  • A comparison of the remittances data from Gulf countries with the remittances from the Indian diaspora in the advanced countries of the western world, namely, UK, US and Canada shows some interesting trends. Indian workers in the UAE remitted $72.3 billion between 2012-2017, while remittances from Indians in the USA were only $68.37 billion during this period. Remittances from the UK at $23 billion and a mere $17.3 billion from Canada compare poorly with the remittances that Indian workers sent from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman and Kuwait during the same period. However, the Indian diaspora in the developed world seems to wield more political influence in India than the Indian worker community eking out a living in Gulf countries. This phenomenon also needs a deeper examination from researchers and academics


  • It appears that blue-collared workers are contributing more to India’s forex kitty than the white-collared workers in the developed countries. However, as a proportion of the total forex reserves at the end of the calendar year the share of the remittances seems to be declining in recent years. In 2012 remittances from Gulf countries were equal to 12.57% of the forex reserves (excluding gold and special drawing rights) declared by RBI for the week ending 29 December. In 2017, the remittances were only 9.97% of the year-end forex reserves declared by RBI.
The above comparison is not an attempt to label the remittances from the Gulf as blood money. Instead, the purpose of this comparative analysis is to highlight the shockingly large number of deaths of Indian workers in the Gulf countries. This phenomenon requires urgent examination. It is hoped that the Central government will start this exercise by making more information about deaths of Indian workers in these countries public. There is an urgent need to commission experts to study the cause of deaths - especially the large number of deaths labelled in Qatar as “natural deaths” and examine the conditions under which Indians work there and identify measures that will prevent avoidable deaths. 
Mr Nayak has filed an appeal with the Central Information Commission to examine the good practice of the Indian Embassy in Kuwait and direct the other embassies to emulate their standard of proactive information disclosure regarding the deaths of Indian workers abroad.
(Vinita Deshmukh is consulting editor of Moneylife, an RTI activist and convener of the Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She is the recipient of prestigious awards like the Statesman Award for Rural Reporting which she won twice in 1998 and 2005 and the Chameli Devi Jain award for outstanding media person for her investigation series on Dow Chemicals. She co-authored the book “To The Last Bullet - The Inspiring Story of A Braveheart - Ashok Kamte” with Vinita Kamte and is the author of “The Mighty Fall”.)
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Bar Council Penalised for Not Displaying RTI Section on Website
Section 4 of the Right to Information (RTI) Act makes it mandatory for every public authority to suo moto display on its official website an RTI Section that provides basic information of the Act as well as in-depth information. However, 12 long years after the implementation of this citizen-empowering law, most of the public authorities have failed to comply with this directive, forcing the citizens to file RTI applications for procuring the information they require.
In the first week of October, the Central Information Commission (CIC) has slapped a penalty of Rs5000 on the Central Public Information Officer (CPIO) of the Bar Council, Delhi (BCD), for failing to dedicate a section on its website for RTI. Chief Information Commissioner Radha Krishna Mathur objected to the callous attitude of BCD in not providing information under the RTI Act; and instead asking for more time by not attending three CIC hearings and still not giving the information thereafter. The BCD, after the CIC order, has agreed to provide the required information to the RTI applicant.
Shashi, the RTI applicant had filed a second appeal with the CIC as she did not get from the CPIO, BCD, a copy of the file notings and the resolutions relating to an increment in the enrolment fee for advocates wanting to become members of BCD in the last five years. She stated at the CIC hearing that she was compelled to file an RTI application as the relevant section of the BCD website throws up a ‘Not Found’ message, which is in defiance of Section 4(1)(b) of the RTI Act. As a result, the address of the CPIO/1st appellate authority is not displayed for the information of the general public.’’
She appealed to the CIC that penalty should be imposed on the CPIO, BCD for not providing her with the required information in time and also for not complying with the RTI Act. She also sought a token compensation on account of loss of her valuable time and the mental agony she suffered. 
The CIC order states that, “The representative of the Bar Council of Delhi agreed to provide to the RTI applicant a certified copy of the complete file notings and the resolutions relating to the increment in enrolment fee during the five-year period prior to the date of receipt of this RTI application, within 15 days from the date of receipt of this order. Moreover, he stated that he has not been properly briefed by the CPIO, as he had been recently appointed.’’
The CIC directed that the website of the Bar Council of Delhi should be updated as per the RTI Act. “The CPIO, BCD should intimate this factual position to the Commission, within 30 days from the date of receipt of this order,” he said. 
“The CPIO, BCD remained absent for CIC hearings, thrice. It appears that the CPIO has failed to honour his legal obligations under the RTI Act by repeatedly making excuses for the delay in giving the information. Moreover, the CPIO has not submitted any written submissions/explanations with regard to the delay and his absence on each day of the hearing,’’ he added.
Commenting upon the man deputed to represent the CPIO at the CIC hearing, who admitted to having scant knowledge of the case, CIC Mathur said, “It does not seem appropriate for the CPIO not to depute any suitable officer for attending the CIC hearing/attending to RTI application(s). This lack of a sense of responsibility from the respondent authority reflects his utter disregard for the law. The CPIO could have sent his authorised representative to present his case but he failed in his legal duty.” 
CIC Mathur further stated: “Due to the absence and inaction of the CPIO, the appellant could not get this information in time. This is a fit case for imposing penalty on the CPIO on the ground of delay/denial of information by the CPIO by being absent on all the previous occasions. He did not care to convey even to this Commission the reasons for the delay. Hearings were scheduled one after the other, giving ample opportunity to the respondent (CPIO) to present his case. Despite this, he did not fulfil his legal obligation of timely supply of information to the appellant. It is observed that merely citing the incidence of the verification process by the Bar Council of Delhi does not absolve the CPIO from his legal duty under the RTI Act.’’
Warning the CPIO and the chairman of BCD against remaining absent from any further hearings, CIC Mathur imposed a penalty of Rs5,000 on the CPIO. However, it did not consider Shashi’s request for compensation for the delay as she had not explained any loss and detriment suffered by her due to non-supply of information as per the RTI Act. No case oVinita f compensation is therefore made out in the matter.
There are hundreds of public authorities who do not abide by the requirement of suo motu disclosures under Section 4 of the RTI Act. There is an urgent need for the Chief Central Information Commissioner to track down such defaulters and issue orders for compliance to public authorities from time to time.
(Vinita Deshmukh is consulting editor of Moneylife, an RTI activist and convener of the Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She is the recipient of prestigious awards like the Statesman Award for Rural Reporting which she won twice in 1998 and 2005 and the Chameli Devi Jain award for outstanding media person for her investigation series on Dow Chemicals. She co-authored the book “To The Last Bullet - The Inspiring Story of A Braveheart - Ashok Kamte” with Vinita Kamte and is the author of “The Mighty Fall”.)
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RBI Governor Gets Show Cause Notice from CIC for Not Disclosing Defaulters’ List
The Central Information Commission (CIC) has issued a show-cause notice to Dr Urjit Patel, governor of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) for not honouring a judgement of the Supreme Court on disclosure of wilful defaulters’ list who had not paid loans of Rs50 crore and more. 
In the notice, central information commissioner Prof Sridhar Acharyulu had also asked the prime minister’s office (PMO), finance ministry and RBI to make public the letter sent by previous governor Raghuram Rajan on bad loans.
In the order, Prof Acharyulu stated, ""The Commission finds no merit in hiding the names of, details and action against willful defaulters of big bad loans worth hundreds of crores of rupees. The RBI shall disclose the bad debt details of defaulters worth more than Rs1,000 crore at the beginning, of Rs500 crore or less at later stage within five days and collect such information from the banks in due course to update their voluntary disclosures from time to time as a practice under Section 4(1)(b) of RTI Act."
Prof Acharyulu, irked over the denial of information on wilful defaulters who had unpaid loans of Rs50 crore and more, asked the RBI governor to explain why maximum penalty should not be imposed on him for ‘dishonouring’ a verdict from the apex court, which had upheld a decision taken by then Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi, calling for disclosure of names of wilful defaulters. 
Prof Acharyulu also referred to a speech by Dr Patel at the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) where he had talked about CVC guidelines and how it were aimed to greater transparency. “The Commission feels that there is no match between what RBI governor and deputy governor say and their website regarding their RTI policy, and great secrecy of vigilance reports and inspection reports is being maintained with impunity in spite of the Supreme Court confirming the orders of the CIC in the Jayantilal case”, Prof Acharyulu had said. 
In normal circumstances, the public information officer (PIO) is held responsible for any lapses and penalised for not obeying orders passed by the CIC. However, in this case, Prof Acharyulu felt that punishing the CPIO of RBI will not serve any purpose as he may have followed instructions from the top authorities. 
Thus, he said, “The Commission considers the RBI governor as deemed PIO responsible for non-disclosure and defiance of Supreme Court and CIC orders and directs him to show cause before 16 November 2018 as to why maximum penalty should not be imposed on him for these reasons.” 
Earlier this year, the CIC had asked the finance ministry, the ministry of statistics & implementation and RBI to make public, the names of those bank loan defaulters whose unpaid loans amount to Rs50 crore and above.
This order is a sequel to the information sought by an RTI (Right to Information) applicant who was refused information by the central public information officer (CPIO) of the ministry of labour & employment. The RTI applicant had sought information on two issues. One was directly related to the labour & welfare ministry comprising information on employment guarantee schemes. The second related to the names of loan defaulters of Rs50 crore and above which the ministry has nothing to do with, but it was the duty of the CPIO to forward the RTI application to the relevant public authorities—in this case, the ministries of finance and of statistics and implementation and the RBI.
The CIC also pointed out that “Section 4(1) (c) of the RTI Act mandates to publish all relevant facts while formulating important policies or announcing the decisions which affect the public; section (d) says provide reasons for its administrative or quasi-judicial decisions to affected persons. What is the policy of the finance ministry, the ministry for statistics and program implementation and the RBI in dealing with the wilful defaulters of Rs50 crore and above?’’
Earlier in February 2016, the Supreme Court directed RBI to furnish a list of the companies which are in default of loans in excess of Rs500 crore or whose loans have been restructured under corporate debts restructuring (CDR) scheme by banks and financial institutions. (Read: Supreme Court asks RBI to submit list of big defaulters)
Even in December 2015, the apex court, in a landmark judgement, has told the RBI that the banking regulator cannot withhold information citing 'fiduciary relations' under the Right to Information (RTI) Act. Hearing a set of transferred cases, a Division Bench of Justice MY Eqbal and Justice C Nagappan said, "From the past we have also come across financial institutions which have tried to defraud the public. These acts are neither in the best interests of the Country nor in the interests of citizens. To our surprise, the RBI as a Watch Dog should have been more dedicated towards disclosing information to the general public under the Right to Information Act. We also understand that the RBI cannot be put in a fix, by making it accountable to every action taken by it. However, in the instant case the RBI is accountable and as such it has to provide information to the information seekers under Section 10(1) of the RTI Act."
In most of the transferred cases, Mr Gandhi, former CIC, while directing the RBI to provide information sought by applicants, had rejected the central bank's contention of 'fiduciary relation' for denying information. 
Here is the link to the RTI Judgement Series based on orders passed by Mr Gandhi as CIC.
You may also want to read…
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P M Ravindran

2 months ago

The information commissioner has no right to presume influence on the PIO for denying info. He was duty bound to impose the mandated penalty and let the PIO, if aggrieved by that decision, to approach the courts. It is the most disgusting and frustrating thing about our justice delivery system that it fails the justice seeker at every step, making a mockery of rule of law. The courts are no less guilty of this crime.

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