'Here debt will kill us,' says Indian worker after return from Iraq
The woes of Indian workers who have returned from strife-torn Iraq are far from over. They now face worries of debt amid the struggle to find new jobs.
It was a great escape for Indians who are back home from war-torn Iraq. But all’s not well yet as the workers are haunted with another crisis -- that of debt.
Around 80 workers from Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, who returned on Saturday, are now struggling to repay debts that go up to Rs 2 lakh.
Madaiah, a construction worker employed in Iraq’s northern oil city Kirkuk, has a loan of Rs 1.50 lakh. Working in Iraq for another three years, he said, was the best chance he had to clear the loan.
The ISIS war in Iraq
“I have been in Iraq for six months and have not managed to clear a single rupee. In the first three months, I received only half the salary as the other half went to the job placement agency. I am the only bread winner in the family and I have a wife and three kids to support.”
Madaiah was happy to be back with his family, who was worried sick about his safety. “But here another harsh reality stares me in the face. I am ready to work, but in India the salaries are not good enough. For me to clear my debt, I will need at least another ten years here,”
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Image: Indian workers rescued from Iraq arrive at the Delhi airport
Photographs: Kamal Kishore/PTI Photo
'They did not target Indians but anything can happen'
He is well aware that returning to Iraq is not an option. “They (the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria militants) do not target Indians, but anything can happen in a war zone. With folded hands, I am seeking some help from the government to intervene and help us clear our debts.”
Krishnaiah, who also worked in Kirkuk, said, “I will die anyway. I see no hope. Had I stayed back in Iraq, I would have been killed, but coming back to India is no different.”
He also has his hopes pinned on the government. “Please provide us with some help so that we can earn a bit more and clear our loans,” he requested.
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Image: Members of Kurdish security forces with their weapons take cover in a shelter during clashes with ISIS militants in Kirkuk, Iraqt
'We had to return to India as our safety could not be guaranteed'
Krishnaiah has Rs 1 lakh to repay and has managed to clear only Rs 10,000. “In Iraq, it was becoming difficult to carry on. We were not paid for a month and those whom we reported to had run away. We decided to stay on as we saw some hope. Today that hope has faded and we were told that we had to return to India, as our safety could not be guaranteed.”
Meanwhile, the ministry of external affairs is making arrangements to rescue more Indians stranded in Iraq. So far 2,200 have indicated that they want to return.
Special arrangements are being made for those who have sought help from the embassy. The MEA has set up four mobile teams in Najaf, Karbala, Basra and Baghdad to speed up this process.
Image: Members of the Kurdish Peshmerga celebrate in the city of Kirkuk
Photographs: Ako Rasheed/Reuters