Why is it acceptable for Indian companies to abuse Indian migrants in the Middle East?

Published: May 11, 2015
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This is a scandal by the Indian industrialists and businessmen against their fellow countrymen and it needs to be stopped, once and for all. PHOTO: REUTERS

In the southern coastal belt of India and the Malabar side, there has been an obsession among youngsters to flock to the Middle East for a better livelihood. The trend embarked in the late 60s, as a result of the oil boom in most parts of the Arab gulf region.

With a shortage of labour force at home, the requirement for semi-skilled and highly-skilled labour from third world countries elevated and thus began the influx of thousands of workers from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Initially, in the early 70s, Kuwait and Bahrain attracted huge labour force as massive oil extraction work was in progress, and later on Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Libya, Oman and United Arab Emirates emerged as the oil rich hubs of the Middle East region.

Most of the pioneering work force benefited, as most of the oil-and-gas and civil-related projects were undertaken by European and American companies. The pay scale was reasonable; moreover, safety and health standards were high, creating a viable working environment. But things began to slide down post-80s, when several Indian sole traders and private companies sprang up, employing unskilled labour, usually for a paltry remuneration.

The private Indian management flouted all labour welfare measures enshrined by the Middle Eastern governments. Suddenly, Middle East seemed no longer the ‘road towards richness’, and the exploitation of workers proceeded.

In the following years, as India’s population exploded, it had its direct effects on employment and resulted in rampant poverty, making a day’s meal hard to meet. This forced large chunks of young men to venture into the Arabian Desert, and leave behind their agonies in order to feed their loved ones. Their desperation and hardships back home were duly taken advantage of by the employers, as any amount of wage would be thankfully received with both hands, without the slightest protest.

This wave of gulf procession created a vicious network of employment agents across India, operating with a sole objective of duping the workers with false promises, illegal fee charges and bribes. These employment agents kept a strong nexus with Indian employers and business owners in the Middle East, with a mutual benefit for both the parties. This evil network still thrives and continues to carry out their activities with impunity. Disturbingly, the Indian government has turned a blind eye and failed to recognise this as a crime, as its own officials are often well-fed and bribed by the agents.

Interestingly, the Middle East too makes tall claims of its infrastructure and industrial progress, which are often exaggerated. In particular, take the case of Dubai; what one sees in downtown Dubai sharply contrasts its other side that exists beneath its gigantic towers and luxurious hotels (especially the industrial area and the civil work sites). Unfortunately, the downtown Dubai is the real deal and the rest of it, which one sees in the form of skyscrapers and colossal shopping malls, is all bogus.

The flashy Dubai is built with the blood of ill-treated workers. Most of the workers are either illiterate or uneducated and emerge from extremely poor backgrounds. They are accommodated in tiny unfurnished rooms with five to eight other members; this makes life extremely uneasy and uncomfortable. The food is prepared through camp mess; some Indian companies never stress any importance to this aspect. The food is often unhygienic and unsanitary, prepared in bulk with least preference to taste.

Accommodation provided to workers. Photo: Chris Dsouza

Most of the workforce takes jobs mainly because they are left without options. It’s the hunger back home that drives them to accept such working conditions, in greedy, uncongenial and employee-unfriendly companies, despite distress. The management of most Indian companies function with their own whims and desires, leaving no authority to question them.

This is a sad reality and the true state of most Indian-run companies here in the Middle East, which involves massive worker exploitation, harassment, delayed payment, dreadful safety standards and health facilities and lamentably modest wages, insufficient, nearly half the amount promised by agents during recruitment.

This is a scandal by the Indian industrialists and businessmen against their fellow countrymen and it needs to be stopped, once and for all.

Chris Dsouza

Chris Dsouza

A Finance graduate from St. Aloysius College, Mangalore. Chris is the co-founder of 'Society of Free Thinkers' based in Bangalore, India. He tweets @Chrisduzzo.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Thatta

    Its ironic how millions of Indians are working in the Gulf Arab states for a better life and improving the standard of living back in India yet numerous Indians have a strong dislike for Muslims and Arabs, then the same Indians have the audacity to call Pakistanis ‘Arab wannabes’ and accuse of being ungrateful of western countries, this is just hypocrticial behavior.Recommend

  • wb

    Good one. Something that I was not aware of.

    This is, indeed, sad.

    But, I guess sadly, the caste/class obsessed Indians are expected to behave this way!!!!Recommend

  • Devinder Singh Bedi.

    There is caste involved too. Something that will never go away. Lower castes
    are mistreated, everywhere, by fellow Indians.. Inside or outside India.
    The Fiji Indians are almost non entities to the Indians from India. Fiji Indians look
    the same, same color, same religion, same festivals.Recommend

  • mimi sur

    Ask Middle-east gov. Their country, their law.Recommend

  • Ahmed Wani

    Just twwet this article to our external affairs minister..Mrs Shushma Swaraj….let him deal …..Recommend

  • Rana Eddy

    I hope you meant “her”.Recommend

  • hp kumar

    These Indians who r living in arab countries r actually from poor back ground laborers..they r there coz arabs need them..Indians even with middle class background will not go to middle east..Recommend

  • Sagar Tanksali

    Factual error. Bahrain never had any oil, apart from a couple of piddly donkey wells.Recommend

  • BlackJack

    Quote: ” In the following years, as India’s population exploded, it had its direct effects on employment and resulted in rampant poverty, making a day’s meal hard to meet. This forced large chunks of young men to venture into the Arabian Desert, and leave behind their agonies in order to feed their loved ones. ”

    This is nonsense and given that the author is from Mangalore, he knows it. Nearly 50 per cent of all Indians in the Gulf region are from Kerala, a state which has had zero population growth in the last 20 years. Kerala has a very low level of poverty (low Gini coefficient) and daily wage rates in Kerala are double of those in neighboring Tamil Nadu. This is not to say that gainful employment is easy to find in Kerala or that Indian companies are not taking advantage of poor enforcement of labor laws and standards in the Middle East, but the lure of lucre is so high that people are willing to undergo relative hardships to make quick money. If the author wants to complain, he should contact the Dubai authorities, I don’t think anyone in India (certainly not Pakistan) can help him.Recommend

  • BlackJack

    How is it ironic, my friend? Indians go to to the ME to make money – we don’t see Arabs as role models in anything, which is why you don’t find us cooking up a fake history and lineage to massage a deep-seated identity crisis.Recommend

  • ziaurrehman

    Ouch… :)Recommend

  • Miyagi Jr.

    I think it is in the genes of south asians, that is to screw ones own race!! Same with Pakistanis abroad, although they do not have a caste system, but yet Pakistani officials abroad treat pakistani as if they were of lower caste.Recommend

  • L.

    Don’t lose hope. Over time, the caste system can surely change. All you have to do is teach your children to not differentiate between people based on what caste they are from, not look at what caste the girl/boy’s family belongs to when they ask for a hand in marriage. Make sure you surround yourself with a diverse group of people. Those who are suppose to catch on, surely will. Recommend

  • Roshan Afridi

    What is an Indian doing writing articles on a Pakistani blog site?Recommend

  • Banana

    A strong dislike for the west doesn’t seem to stop Pakistanis to run to UK or Canada or Norway and claim unemployment benefits there. At least these Indian labourers go to work and earn a honest living without staying on and demanding their own religious laws.Recommend

  • R.A.

    Yeah some of the Pakistanis I have encountered around the world really seem to detest me simply because I am a Pakhtoon.Recommend

  • Banana

    A strong dislike for the west doesn’t seem to stop Pakistanis to run to UK or Canada or Norway and claim unemployment benefits there. At least these Indian labourers go to work and earn a honest living without staying on and demanding their own religious laws.Recommend

  • MastKalandar

    Hey dear! I couldnt get your name, but have been reading your responses always…you are the most sane, magnanimous, sweeet and wonderful person I have come accross till date, amongst the many other participants from pakistan! May god bless you always :-)Recommend

  • نائلہ

    Thanks again for the compliment; and the name is Naila :)Recommend

  • Khalid

    “Indians go to to the ME to make money”
    Same case for the Pakistani workers. They certainly don’t go there to perform Ummrah all year yet Indians act as if they it is only Pakistani who suffer under them!Recommend

  • Kamath

    Um! Internet is an interconnected cyberspace. It is like a house with unlocked open doors and windows. It does not have national borders or passports. So any body c an express their thoughts if editors allow it!
    So read about the topic before you express your ignorant remarks!Recommend

  • Kamath

    Then why increasing number of Pakistanis have begun to rename the country as Zbakistan ?Recommend

  • Kulwant Singh

    My who says there is no Caste system, there is no caste system in Islam but there is a Caste system in Muslims and same is the case with Sikhs there is no caste system in Sikhs but there is in Sikhs. In my own village in Indian Panjab there are Teli Muslims, Julaha Muslims , Marasi Muslims what is this are these not castes, they are all Muslims/Recommend