Live of Indians in Saudi Arabia have altered drastically in the last year: there's a new 'family tax,' family visas are no longer free, charges of temporary visas have more than doubled, and fuel, water and power costs have shot through the roof.
This has left many helpless, unable to carry on in Saudi, but failing to find jobs in India too.
'Family tax' went up from zero to 200 riyals
Last July, the Saudi government introduced the family tax, or dependent tax, which requires employed expats to pay a 'tax' for each dependent in his family.
When it was launched, it was fixed at 100 riyals (Rs. 1,700) a month. This month, it was doubled to 200 (Rs. 3,660).
It will increase to 300 riyals (Rs. 5,490) next July, and 400 (Rs. 7,320) in July'20.
Hiked charges for visas, power, water
That's not all. Family visas, earlier free, cost 2,000 riyals (Rs. 36,590) now. A single-exit reentry visa, which cost 200 riyals for a year earlier, now costs the same for two months, and 100 riyals for each additional month.
Fuel prices have doubled since December, from 0.90 riyal per liter of Octane 95 to 2 riyals now. Electricity rates have trebled.
500 families have already returned from Saudi, reports say
For an Indian construction worker earning 2,500 riyals (Rs. 46,000), these extra expenses are taking a toll.
As a result, many have been forced to return, or send back their families.
According to TOI, 500 of the total 1,200 families in the Gulf have returned from Saudi alone.
Till last year, Indians formed the largest expat group in Saudi, with 41L members.
'Even families with a decent income are returning'
Irshad, a Mangaluru-based engineer who too returned, insists the dependent fee isn't a "tax" but a fine, since the government doesn't provide any benefits in lieu.
An auto consultant in Saudi agrees, adding it is not just the low-income group which has been hit. "Even families with a decent income are doing it. The same money can be remitted back home."
As one problem sorted for returning migrants, another rises
This has led to a new problem: joblessness. A woman, who returned to Mysuru with her daughter, said, "I am a qualified teacher so I managed to find a job in Mysuru. But many of my friends who had returned with me are still struggling to find one."
Former migrants now want the government to step in and help those returning home.