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Gulf NRIs blame government of inaction
Syed Amin Jafri in Hyderabad | January 09, 2006 20:08 IST
NRIs from the Gulf countries vent their ire at the Government of India for ignoring their problems and doing nothing to protect their interests.
The parallel session on "Indians in the Gulf" on the last day of the 4th Pravasi Bharatiya Divas 2006 in Hyderabad turned out be a "grilling session" for the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs officials who were taken to task by angry representatives of NRI organisations in the Gulf countries. Protector-General of Emigrants R K Singh and the organisers bore the brunt of the Gulf NRIs' fury.
They demanded to know why the Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs and top officials from the Ministry as well as from other ministries concerned with NRI issues did not care to attend the session where the Indians in the Gulf were supposed to highlight their grievances and seek immediate solutions.
Some of the delegates were so furious that they forced a panelist from Jawaharlal Nehru University to cut short his presentation on Overseas Employment: A New Agenda. "There is no point in listening to academic lectures. What we want is response of the officials to our problems. Nothing else," the delegate said, echoing the mood at the venue.
One of the delegates - Suresh Kumar, taunted the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs, saying "we are not smart enough to issue smart cards for NRIs despite such promises in the last two years. When are you going to issue these cards?" Other delegates narrated their litany of grievances, demanding to know what the government was doing about them.
Serious problems faced by emigrant workers, particularly in the Gulf, were highlighted. These ranged from the irregularities committed by the recruiting agencies in sending the blue collared workers on visit visas instead of job visas and thus landing them in deep trouble, exploitation and abuse of women workers, specially the maid servants, lack of proper medical insurance and no help from the government in sending back the mortal remains of NRIs who die in the Gulf.
M M Hassan, chairman of Non-Resident Keralites Corporation, who chaired the session, urged the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs to take immediate practical measures to attend to these problems.
The delegates asked the Government of India officials to visit the congested and cranky places where the Indian workers were made to live in hellish conditions in some places in the Gulf.
Krishnamurthy Kumar, convenor of Indian Community Welfare Center, Dubai, said non-payment and delayed payment of wages to Indian workers was causing mental trauma and physical suffering to the victims and they were going on strike. He suggested that the defaulting companies should be made to deposit three months' salary per employee or provide a bank guarantee.
Several delegates raised the issue of dead bodies. They alleged that bodies of Indian workers who died or committed suicide were being buried as unclaimed after lying in mortuaries for long periods. Solomon Baby from Bahrain said that he had to issue appeals in local newspapers for donations from the local community for sending back the dead bodies of Indians or for meeting the hospital expenses for treatment of the poor emigrants.
Kumar said that despite Indian Airlines doing the noble service for transferring the dead bodies free of cost, it still costs 3,000 Dirham (about Rs 39,000) for embalming the bodies and other expenses. He demanded that the Indian missions abroad should be given funds to help such needy people.
Sayeeduddin, an engineer working in Saudi Arabia, raised the issue of cremation of the bodies of Hindus in the Kingdom, which was not allowed. He wanted the government to sort out the problem. He demanded that the children of Indians working in the Gulf should be treated as locals for admission in the educational institutions, particularly professional colleges, in India.
Complete Coverage: Pravasi Bharatiya Divas 2006