Friday, October 24, 2008

Suicides by Indians in the UAE has been increasing

The number of suicides by Indians in the UAE has been increasing steadily since 2003, thanks debt traps they are falling in. The high cost of living and increasing financial commitments back home force expatriates to go for loans from banks, moneylenders, and credit cards, reports RIYASBABU
The Gulf dream of Indian expatriates is turning sour and sometimes deadly too. The good old days when one could come to the Gulf countries, make money, give a decent life to one's family and retire with contentment are over.
Now, an increasing number of Indian expatriates are falling into huge debt traps leading them to commit suicide.
For instance, 92 Indians committed suicide in Dubai and the Northern Emirates so far this year, according to an official of the Indian Consulate in Dubai. The statistics available in the consulate reveal that 109 Indians in these emirates took the extreme step in 2006 and 118 in 2007.
The number of suicides by Indians, in fact, has been rising steadily, 40 in 2003, 70 in 2004 and 84 in 2005.
Indian expatriates have been flocking to the UAE since the 1970s when oil was struck and approximately 1.5 million Indians are living in the country now. Social organisations blamed the financial institutions for trapping the less fortunate people by providing them credit cards and loans on easy terms and conditions.
K. V. Shamsudheen, chairman of the UAE-based Pravasi Bandhu Trust that launched an initiative called "Sandwanam" (Consolation) in 2006 to help the Indian expatriates get over depression and suicide tendency, said, "We are getting two calls on an average everyday from people who are in deep depression. As much as 75 per cent of the cases coming to us are of deep depression due to financial crisis and lack of opportunity to share their feelings to others."
Most of the callers have taken loans in India to pay the recruiting agents. After coming to the Gulf, they are again forced to take loans from banks and private lenders and make purchases on credit cards, he said.
The research carried out by Sandwanam reveals that depression linked to accumulated debts was the main reason behind 75 per cent of the suicide cases. Fifteen per cent of the suicides were due to family issues and 10 per cent job-related stress.
"The low and middle income Indian expatriates in the UAE falling into debt traps have become quite common. A good number of Indians could not pay even the interest to the lenders. The main sources of loans is banks, credit cards and illegal lenders," said Shamsudheen.
The interest rates vary depending on the source of the loan. While the banks are charging up to 8-9 per cent, the credit card companies charge up to 30 per cent and private lenders anything between 72 per cent and 120 per cent.
"The spending habits of the expatriates and their dependents are playing a very important role. Once one person becomes a non-resident Indian (NRI), the family back home will start spending lavishly without considering the financial situation of the breadwinner," he pointed out. "As the cost of living has increased drastically in the GCC countries over the last three-four years, they could save less. In the same period, the Indian rupee appreciated which meant the money they remit to India would fetch fewer rupees. Besides, the cost of living has gone high back in India too, forcing the families to demand more money from the hapless NRI. These are the three circumstances compelling them to take loans to meet the financial requirements," Shamsudheen said.
Joseph Bobby, a volunteer with the Valley of Love, another social organisation supporting people in distress in the UAE , also said the main reason behind most of the suicides by Indians in the country is financial crisis.
The cost of living has been increasing in the UAE day by day. However, the salaries remain the same. These make a lot of people struggle to make both ends meet. Financial institutions capitalise on this situation by providing such people with easy loans and credit cards which later trap them in a mountain of debts," he said.

Suicide facts: Indian suicides in the UAE
2008: 109 (from January to Sept); 95 in Dubai and the northern emirates; 14 in Abu Dhabi
2007: 130; 118 in Dubai and the northern emirates and 12 in Abu Dhabi
2006: 135; 109 suicides in Dubai and the northern emirates and 26 in Abu Dhabi


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