The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Money bigger than militants

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New Delhi, July 22: About four weeks ago, under a great deal of pressure the Indian embassy in Kuwait resumed issuing no-objection certificates to Indian citizens based in that country to go to Iraq on work.

The decision followed a large demonstration by Indians in front of the embassy for permission to visit Iraq on lucrative assignments.

No-objection certificates from the embassy are required for Indians to be able to cross the Kuwait border with Iraq.

Under the previous BJP-led government, external affairs minister Yashwant Sinha had directed the embassy to stop issuing the certificates because Iraq had become too dangerous.

The demonstration was of such a scale that police had to be called in to break it up.

Indians with Kuwaiti visas are eager to work in Iraq because of the money. For instance, a worker earning 100 dinars (equivalent to Rs 40,000) a month in Kuwait will get five times the amount in Iraq.

The pay tempts Indians from less than affluent backgrounds to brave the dangers of working in a war-ravaged country.

In May, four people from Kerala had returned home to narrate their horrifying experience over nine months while working as kitchen assistants in a US army camp.

They had, however, said they were tricked into going to Iraq.

Official sources in Delhi said the government had warned Indians against going to Iraq, a directive that has obviously not been followed because the pay was too attractive.

It is believed that there was pressure from lobbies within the country with commercial interests in the Gulf region — the recruitment business fetches big money — to resume issuing no-objection certificates. For example, Faisal, one of the four Malayalees who worked in the US army camp, had said he paid Rs 70,000 to a recruitment agent.

The minister of state for external affairs, E. Ahmad, who is from Kerala from where large numbers go to the Gulf to work, expressed the government’s concern about the safety of the three hostages in Iraq.

“We are taking all possible steps to secure an early release of the hostages,” he said.

Ahmad announced that a 24-hour control room had been set up in the ministry to respond to queries or to provide information to.

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