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regular-article-logo Thursday, 18 July 2024

Save them: Editorial on the importance of redressal of problems faced by Indian workers on foreign shores

New Delhi’s equations with most of these nation states are smooth; hence the redressal of the problems faced by Indian workers should not face insurmountable odds if New Delhi puts its mind to it

The Editorial Board Published 18.06.24, 08:35 AM
Centre must take up the grievances that have already been registered by Indian workers in the Gulf nations through requisite diplomatic channels.

Centre must take up the grievances that have already been registered by Indian workers in the Gulf nations through requisite diplomatic channels. File Photo

When tragedy struck Indian migrant workers in Kuwait — 45 of them perished in a devastating fire — the external affairs minister pledged the fullest of assistance from the Indian embassy. The latter did open helpline numbers to assist the families of the deceased: the prime minister was quick to announce ex-gratia relief for the unfortunate families too. Yet, the proverbial flames refuse to die down: the reason being that both the Centre and the Kerala government had left gaps that needed to be filled to avert the tragedy. It has been reported that Indian embassies in a number of West Asian countries had received complaints from India’s migrant workers regarding such grievances as poor working conditions, substandard accommodation and non-payment of salaries: almost half of these complaints — they number over 16,000 — had come from Kuwait. It appears that not much was done to address the complaints. This is significant given that one of the concerns — improper accommodation — played a role in the tragedy: the gutted building housed over 190 workers. Pinarayi Vijayan’s government, which has been pointing fingers at New Delhi after the latter denied permission to the Kerala health minister to fly to Kuwait, was guilty of lapses too. Maintaining an updated database of migrant workers, an essential element to track the well-being of members of the diaspora, seems not to have been accorded the urgency it deserves. This despite the fact that Kerala accounts for a lion’s share of the total number of migrant labourers from India. Incidentally, the completion of the database has been a longstanding demand among the workers who go to the Gulf.

Two things need to be done post-haste in light of the tragedy. The state and the Centre must coordinate to create a comprehensive repository of the details of Indian workers on foreign shores. They must also take steps to rein in illegal employment agencies that often exploit overseas workers. This will require the state and the Centre to resurrect the established, but frayed, protocols of federalism. Second, the Centre must take up the grievances that have already been registered by Indian workers in the Gulf nations through requisite diplomatic channels. New Delhi’s equations with most of these nation states are smooth; hence the redressal of the problems faced by Indian workers should not face insurmountable odds if New Delhi puts its mind to it.

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