DUBAI -- A 52-year-old Indian national, who has been illegally living in the deserts of Saudi Arabia for 24 years, will soon return to India after the government announced a 90-day amnesty period, according to a media report.
Gana Prakasam Rajamariyan came to Saudi Arabia in August 1994 to work as a farm-hand in a remote village in Hail province.
Rajamariyan, hailing from Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu, said he was paid only Saudi Riyal 100 a month for six months by his first employer.
He was then "transferred" to another employer and a third a few months later. He has spent 24 years in the desert, without going home for once, a Saudi Gazette report said.
"Of the three employers, I was not sure which one was my sponsor. Above all, I did not receive any salary from them, so I decided to abscond and live illegally out of compulsion," the newspaper quoted Rajamariyan as saying.
He said his destiny was the deserts where he spent half of his life.
"My four daughters were very young when I left home. Now when I return, I have grandchildren of the same age," he said.
Rajamariyan said he was able to marry off three of his four daughters with his earnings in Saudi Arabia. He said he did not own a house nor did he have the Adhaar card or a voter ID, all of which were introduced after he left the country.
He made his last phone call to his wife, Ronikyam, before she was admitted to hospital in 2015. After that he did not call her as she was not able to speak and died a year later.
Rajamariyan has completed all formalities for his return to India with the help of Hail-based social worker Sarfuddin Thayyil. He hopes to leave Saudi Arabia soon.
Thousands of Indian workers stranded in Saudi Arabia after travelling there illegally and those who overstayed their visas, including a large number from Tamil Nadu, are ready to return to India under a 90-day amnesty period that the Saudi government has offered them.
"By approaching the passport departments to solve their status from March 29, illegal workers "will be exempt from the consequences associated with the deportee fingerprint system and will be able to return to the Kingdom on the condition of pursuing legal methods to gain entry," the General Directorate of Passports (GDP) in Saudi Arabia had said last month.
Indian Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Ahmed Javed had reiterated that people listed as matloob (wanted) in criminal cases and those holding valid residence visas and passports were not covered by the amnesty.
Javed had appealed to all illegal residents to utilise the amnesty period to leave the country, saying they could come back to work legally in Saudi Arabia at any time they wanted.
The Indian Embassy in Riyadh and the Consulate General in Jeddah received a total of 26,713 applications for emergency travel passes and issued 25,894 since the general amnesty was announced 56 days ago.
People from Uttar Pradesh formed the majority with 11,390 applicants while Telangana had 2,733 applicants, West Bengal 2,332, Tamil Nadu 2,022, Kerala 1,736, Bihar 1,491, Andhra Pradesh 1,120 and Rajasthan 853.
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