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Victim Indian, rescuer Pakistani

Borders blur during a bus ride in Oman

Darjeeling: A Darjeeling woman was duped by her own relative but was rescued from Oman with the help of a stranger who turned out to be a Pakistani.

Sabnam (name changed) had gone to Dubai in November last year to work as a domestic help after a relative now based in Delhi made the arrangements.

"Once I reached Dubai, I was kept there for 12 days and then told that I needed to work in Oman. My passport was seized by the placement agency there. I used to be beaten by my employer. I reached out to the officials of the placement cell and they too beat me up and sent me to another employer's house," said Sabnam, in her mid-thirties.

"I could only speak a bit of Hindi and this was the main problem. I wanted to return home and I was unable to bear the torture but the placement agency in Oman told me that I had to work there for another two years. I did not have my passport too," said Sabnam, a mother of two.

"My elder sister's son had arranged for my travel to Dubai. I contacted him and narrated my ordeal but after some time, his phone was always switched off," she added.

Despite the promise of a monthly salary of Rs 25,000, Sabnam said she was given only Rs 12,500.

Two of her mobile phones were destroyed by the placement agency but finally she managed to buy another one and contact her neighbours in Darjeeling.

"The neighbour got in touch with Uden Bhutia, a social worker in Kalimpong," Sabnam said.

Bhutia then contacted Nirnay John Chhetri, the general secretary of Mankind in Action for Rural Growth (MARG), a Darjeeling-based NGO that has worked on a number of such cases in the past.

"We immediately got in touch with the Indian embassy in Oman, we also informed the Darjeeling DM, SP and the MP. Everyone worked on the case and pressure started building up on the placement agency," said Chhetri.

The placement agency decided to shift Sabnam to another employer in a place called Salalah. Chhetri had received the information on March 31.

The placement agency made Sabnam board a bus, handed over her passport to the driver with a directive that she should be handed over to her new employer at a bus stand in Salalah.

"I was crying on the phone when two people from Pakistan who were also there to work as drivers enquired what my problem was. I narrated my tale and one of them cooperated with me and called my neighbour in Darjeeling," Sabnam said.

The Indian embassy, whose officials were trying to locate Sabnam, was contacted by Chhetri as well as one of the Pakistani citizens.

"The man from Pakistan spoke to the Indian embassy people and soon they traced my location," said Sabnam who was rescued on April 11.

The Pakistani also helped her reach a police station in Oman. "Her passport was recovered," said Chhetri.

Chhetri and Sabnam reached Darjeeling on Monday evening.

"Had it not been for the Pakistani people and the quick response by the NGOs and authorities in Darjeeling and Oman, I would never have been rescued," Sabnam said.

Chhetri said: "No one should go to work on a tourist visa, they should check whether the placement agency is registered with the Protector General of Emigrants in India and women below 30 years cannot be taken to work as a domestic help in these countries."

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