Little India: Overseas Indian, NRI, Asian Indian, Indian American

Mechanisms Needed to Curb Indian Immigrant Workers’ Exploitation: Parliament Panel

Construction workers in Dubai.

A parliament committee has urged the Indian government to establish a strong mechanism to protect workers employed overseas from exploitation. Underlining the menace of unregistered agents, who entice these workers to work abroad and betray them in one or another way, the panel said strict punishment should be marked for them.

The Standing Committee on Labour, headed by BJP Member of Parliament Kirit Somaiya, tabled the report on issues affecting overseas employment of women workers, including nurses and maids, the regulatory framework in place, and the requirements for better mechanisms, PTI reported. The report, tabled on Aug.9, said that thousands of workers, lured by unregistered agents in the name of overseas jobs, are exploited once they reach foreign countries.

For speedy grievance redressal of overseas workers, a strong mechanism should be developed immediately in coordination with the Ministry of External Affairs, Ministry of Labour and Employment, and Ministry of Home Affairs, along with state governments, the panel said. It also recommended penalties/punishment to illegal agents, and stressed that all state governments should appoint a nodal officer for this issue.

The report has highlighted the various problems faced by that Indian immigrant workers, including withheld salaries, long working hours, denial of valid labor rights, and non-provision of medical and insurance facilities in the host country. Confinement or abandoning of maids has also been a major complaint.

Grievances of exploited workers  are not “proactively” accepted by the Indian government departments, including state governments, police, and ministries of home and external affairs, the panel said, according to PTI. This lukewarm response from departments leaves workers helpless in a foreign land.

The committee also stated that a large number of cases have come to light where illegal agents sent uneducated or less-qualified persons abroad on tourist and other such visas instead of legal work visas. The agents extracted considerable amounts from them after promising them good work opportunities overseas.

Various incidents of exploitation of Indian immigrant workers have been reported recently.  Last month, the Kuwait government announced payment of KD250 as relief amount to about 700 Indian workers who were left unpaid by the Kharafi National Company.

The hardships faced by immigrant workers, most of whom are employed in blue-collar jobs, often force them to take extreme steps. The number of Indians who killed themselves in the Gulf countries of the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait rose to 322 in 2017, from 303 in 2016. Illegal emigration through touts was the main factor behind many of these suicides, cited MC Luther, the Protector General of Emigrants under the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), was cited by Firstpost as saying. However, social workers blame the situation on various issues, such as financial mismanagement, family issues back in India, and unstable job conditions faced by migrant employees in Gulf countries, it added.

In April, this year, the Indian mission had invited proposals for empanelment of law firms for assisting it with cases of distressed Indians living in Dubai and Northern Emirates.

“This is for addressing the problems of legal issues faced by community members. We will be providing legal assistance to deserving community members on a means tested basis,” Gulf News had earlier quoted an official as saying.