The plight of migrant workers in jail in the Gulf came into focus during a meeting organised on the occasion of International Migrants Day on Thursday. The speakers said that 600,000 migrant labourers from Telangana, most of them from the districts of Nizamabad and Karimnagar worked in the Gulf and some 6,000 are in jail on different charges, some of them have been there for more than one and a half decades.
The most heart-rending was the story of Muthyam who had gone to Dubai as a daily wage labourer and has now been in jail for the past 15 years. Muthyam’s brother Lingam told the meeting that his mother was hoping to see him at least once more before she died. “We have not seen him ever since he went to Dubai”, he said.
Rajeshwar Rao from Nizamabad told the meeting about the plight of his son Rajnikant who had gone to the Gulf three years ago and is now languishing in jail. His only fault, according to his father was to ask his family to send some painkillers for him. “The first time we sent the medicine there was no problem. But the second time he asked for the medicine for his friend, the authorities seized it and arrested my son. Had we known that it was illegal to use this medicine there we would have never have sent it.”
Rajeshwara Rao’s family relied on the money Rajnikant was sending. “Now me, my daughter-in-law and three-year-old grandson are on the verge of starvation and are desperately trying to get my innocent son released.” Rajnikant worked as a driver before he decided to go to the Gulf to work there in the hope of improving his family’s lot. The meeting was organised by the Migrants Rights Council and the Palamuru Migrant Labour Union to highlight the sufferings of workers in other countries.
V Anuradha Reddy, a human rights lawyer working for workers in Dubai, said the responsibility for the situation also lies with Indian officials who do not educate illiterate and semi-literate workers about the rules in other countries, especially in terms of banned items.
“Recently an Indian was arrested for carrying poppy seeds which are banned there”, she said. The poppy seed is a part of food preparation in India.
Former MP and vice-president of Building and Wood Workers International, Ramchander Kunthia, said that not only the plight of Indian workers abroad needed attention but also migrants in India needed safeguards. The Inter State Migrant Labour Act should be amended, he said.