Fresh hope over pledge on Indian workers in GCC
Manama, June 9, 2014
A diplomat said pledges made by a new Indian minister to tackle problems faced by workers in Gulf nations reiterates the government's commitment to the welfare of migrant workers.
Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj has called for a meeting with parliamentarians of districts in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh, which records high numbers of migrants, following reports of Indian expatriates living in "semi-slave conditions" in the GCC, said a report in the Gulf Daily News (GDN), our sister publication.
"Though we do not have any official intimation from the minister's office on this matter, the report clearly indicates the priority that the Indian government attaches to its community living abroad," said Indian Ambassador Dr Mohan Kumar.
"It also affirms the government's placing the Gulf region as a whole on high significance, apart from the welfare of its nationals," he said.
Meanwhile, Migrant Workers Protection Society (MWPS) chairwoman Marietta Dias stressed the need for action on the ground.
"We respect the Indian ministers' protocol when they visit Bahrain, but we wish that they take time to meet the right people when they address the Indian workers' issues," she said.
"They need to reach out to civil societies and activists, who work at the grass-roots level.
"Every Indian citizen is the Indian government's responsibility and we hope that Swaraj gets down to the reality of these concerns."
Indian Community Relief Fund (ICRF) general secretary Arun Govind urged the new Indian government to tackle two key issues - low wages and poor living conditions.
"The government should take measures to ensure that minimum wages are paid to Indian workers," he said.
"It should also take strict measures to stop human trafficking, especially from some of the southern states.
"We have seen this exploitation happening for years now. Can the new government be firm on these issues and implement welfare measures?"
Swaraj, who is also in charge of Overseas Indian Affairs, initiated the move in line with reports of Indian migrant labourers facing almost inhuman working conditions in the construction sector in Qatar, in the run-up to the 2022 World Cup, according to daily newspaper Times of India.
Reports said "cramped conditions and exploitation by employers under the infamous 'kafala' (sponsorship) system" has affected workers in Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
Swaraj, a 62-year-old Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader, is India's first woman external affairs minister in the newly-elected cabinet headed by Prime Minister Narenda Modi. - TradeArabia News Service