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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Indian women sold like products to Persian Gulf Arab states: Minister

Wed May 25, 2016 12:56AM
This undated photo shows an Indian migrant woman from a village near the Indian city of Hyderabad on a plane en route to Qatar. ©Daily News and Analysis
This undated photo shows an Indian migrant woman from a village near the Indian city of Hyderabad on a plane en route to Qatar. ©Daily News and Analysis
Indian women from two southern neighboring states "are being sold like products in a retail shop" to the Arab countries in the Persian Gulf, says an Indian state minister.
Palle Raghunatha Reddy, Andhra Pradesh's minister for non-resident Indian welfare, sent a letter to Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj last week, complaining about the plight of fellow citizens in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait, The Indian Express reported on Tuesday.
Reddy said women domestic workers from Andhra Pradesh and the neighboring state of Telangana “are being sold to the tune of 400,000 rupees ($6,000) in Saudi Arabia and between 100,000 ($1,500) to 200,000 rupees ($3,000) in Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait."
He said the women -- many of them imprisoned for overstaying their visas and failure to pay the fines thereof or caught trying to flee their abusive employers -- should be brought back to “their native areas safely by providing free travel and necessary visa documents at the earliest possible” opportunity.
Palle Raghunatha Reddy, Andhra Pradesh's minister for non-resident Indian welfare
"Instructions should be issued to Indian embassy officials in Persian Gulf countries to interfere in the matter and provide necessary help in terms of food, clothing and shelter," the letter read.
About six million Indian migrants are in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Oman, according to the Indian government.
The migrants include women who are lured by recruitment agents into leaving their villages to take up jobs in the six countries that pay up to three times more than in India.
At least 25 women languishing in those countries’ jails have recently sought the state government's help, Reddy added.
Kasturi Munirathinam, whose right hand was chopped off by her employer in Saudi Arabia last year when she tried to escape abuse, is pcitured in her home in Vellore, 150 kilometers (90 miles) from Chennai, India, after a painful convalescence. ©Reuters
Following a parliamentary query in March, India’s diplomatic missions in the Arab Persian Gulf countries announced they had registered instances of violations of migrants’ rights including physical abuse and non-payment of salary.
A delegation of Andhra Pradesh government ministers will visit the countries next month in relation to the situation of Indian migrants there, a senior state official said on condition of anonymity.
Migrant agreements
India and the Persian Gulf states have singed different agreements on Indian migrants’ protection since the 1980s. But activists are skeptical that such agreements, the latest of which signed with the United Arab Emirates, would improve the human rights situation of the migrants.
"The bilateral agreements are focused on ensuring more people get jobs and bring back remittances, but not protecting the worker and his basic rights," said Bernard D'Sami, the coordinator of the non-government Arunodhaya Migrant Initiative, an Indian migrant advocacy group.
"People arrive at the destination country to find no labour contract and no valid work permit. At the end of 90 days, when their tourist visa expires, they are undocumented people in a foreign land. That's when the hell begins," D'Sami added.
Last year, the Indian government registered 538 and 282 cases of abuse in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia respectively. 
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