NEWS FROM THE UAE
Excerpts from UAE Dailies
Ministry cracks the whip on price hike
DUBAI — AUG 6: Ministry of Economy (MoE) yesterday warned suppliers against hiking of commodities and services prices and urged consumers to resort to the ministry’s and other relevant authorities’ hotlines in case of any violation by suppliers in Dubai, the MoE has said.
It has also been decided that the MoE, Dubai’s Department of Economic Development (DED), and Dubai Municipality (DM) will together monitor shops and other sectors to prevent the suppliers from hiking prices of commodities and services under the pretext of any increase in employees’ salaries, senior MoE officials said.
The warning came at a meeting in the ministry’s premises in Dubai where the director of the ministry’s Consumer Protection Unit, Dr Hashim Al Nuaimi, and representatives of DED and DM discussed ways to address the issue. Al Nuaimi presided over the meeting.
“We have agreed on having more coordination among our offices as well as on strictly monitoring shops and other sectors,” said Al Nuaimi. Al Nuaimi also said that DED and DM would provide the Consumer Protection Unit with reports about actions taken against any violator of the rules.
He urged consumers to call the help lines in case any violation was spotted by suppliers in Dubai. The consumers call the MoE’s CPU number (600522225), DED (04-2020220), DM’s emergency (04-2232323) and DM general (800900). — With inputs from Wam
Transit passengers of Jazeera Airways identified
DUBAI — AUG 6: The two Delhi-bound passengers of Jazeera Airways who disembarked from their aircraft while in transit at the Dubai International Airport (DIA) on Friday night were found and identified by airport immigration officials at 11am on Saturday, according to an airline spokesperson.
Fawaz Al-Sirri, Jazeera Airways’ communications and image manager, said that as per the report forwarded to them by Dubai airport officials, the two Indian passengers have been identified. Their passports were also returned to them.
It was not clear, however, if the passengers boarded another Jazeera Airways flight bound for Delhi, as their names did not appear on the airline’s passenger manifest following the incident, or if they bought new tickets from another carrier.
He added that both passengers approached the Jazeera Airways’ gate at the DIA to report that they have missed their flight. It was then that the airport officials came to know of the passengers’ whereabouts.
Al-Sirri also mentioned that prior to landing at the DIA, Jazeera Airways cabin crew announced that passengers who were bound for Dubai can disembark from the aircraft while those bound for New Delhi would have to remain onboard.
“The announcement was made twice in five languages, namely, English, Arabic, Urdu, Hindi, and Malayalam for the benefit of all our passengers. We do not know what prompted the two passengers to leave the aircraft but we do know that the proper announcement was made,” he said.
“ We had to offload their baggage so we could take off without any security risk. This procedure was followed as part of the international security standard observed by our airline, the Kuwait Civil Aviation, as well as the Dubai Civil Aviation,” he said.
Amnesty: A season of hope
UAE - AUG 6: Is there a proper system of checks and balances to rein in unscrupulous agents and companies denying workers their rights? Hemchhaya De tries to find some answers.
THE stakes are quite high for Ismael Molla. He invested a lot of money, which he earned doing numerous odd jobs in Dubai, in setting up his business. Hailing from Amtala, a small town in the Indian state of West Bengal, he had sky-high aspirations and therefore didn’t think twice before using up all his savings in India, amounting to Rs 600,000 (approximately Dh 60,000) to expand his company’s operations.
Today he boasts of a thriving “AC-repairing business” which he runs along with his Indian friend, who has a legal residential status, banking on the support of their Emirati partner.
But now Molla has to leave the country if he wants to hold on to his claim in the company. Though his firm, he claims, is registered with the UAE authorities, he has been living in the country for the past three years as an illegal.
Turning into illegal
Like countless other Indian illegals who are now availing of the three-month amnesty period which was announced by the UAE government at the beginning of June, Molla now spends his days doing the rounds of the authorities in Dubai.
He landed in the emirate three years ago on a visit visa. He was recruited by an electro-mechanical contracting company in Dubai through a recruiting agency in New Delhi. He was apparently interviewed and selected for the job by the agency’s sub-agent in Kolkata who told him that the company would be paying him a monthly salary of Dh 1,400. “But we were given only Dh 600 per month which was hardly enough to survive in Dubai,” said Molla, who paid around Rs 8,000 (around Dh 900) to the sub-agent to get the job in Dubai.
“We were given contracts that said we’d be receiving Dh 2,000 per month. But in reality we were paid Dh 600 in cash per month. Some received even less than that! We were given no salary slips. So I had no choice but to escape from their clutches after a couple of months,” said Molla, who was reported to the authorities by his employer as an absconder. He has now received his passport. He chose to avail of the amnesty because he wanted to avert a ban or any other kind of harsh penalty. And he is desperate to find a legal route back to the country. “I don’t want to lose money. I am trying to persuade my local partner to regularise my status now. Though my partners have given me all the support, I have built the company by the sweat of my brow!”
Molla’s is not an isolated case. “I paid my agent back in India Rs 72,000 (a little above Dh 7,000) last year before coming to Dubai. The construction company I was hired for said it would pay me Dh 750 per month. But I was getting around Dh 400. This continued for a few months When I refused to continue working and asked for my passport, they said I won’t get it back,” said S Racharla from Andhra Pradesh, who has now received an outpass to go back home.
Most of the Indian amnesty seekers interviewed at the Indian High School on the Oud Metha Road in Dubai, where a collection centre for outpasses has been set up by the Dubai Naturalisation and Residency Department (DNRD), say they have fallen prey to unscrupulous job agents in India. They had to pay agents exorbitant sums of money (varying between Rs 70,000 and Rs 100,000) in order to get the jobs. They also alleged that their employers reneged on their promises and deprived them of several benefits like payment of salary on time.
They came to the golden shores of Dubai to earn money so that their families back home can enjoy a better living. To ensure a prosperous life for their loved ones, they are willing to embrace risks of all kinds. For instance, they sell whatever little properties they have back home to pay recruiting agents. They have to work themselves into the ground to recoup the expenses they incurred while landing jobs in the UAE. When their employers refuse to pay them the salaries they promised, they say they have to remain in the country as odd jobbers.
Diverted to Iraq
There are some who have more harrowing tales to tell. Joseph, hailing from a South Indian state, paid his recruiting agent about Rs 80,000 (approx Dh8,000) to land a driver’s job in Dubai. His contract was signed by the recruitment agent on his behalf. When he arrived in Dubai, he was told by the “agent’s agent” in the emirate after a week that he would be taken to Iraq. Joseph couldn’t go back to India because he had debts to pay off. So he went to Iraq where he stayed for about eight months till he was asked to go back to Dubai because he was “tested positive for diabetes”. In Iraq, he was made to do ironing, cleaning and other household chores for some security personnel. He was given no money — just a ticket to return to Dubai.
He was advised by his legal counsellor to seek amnesty so that he could initiate legal procedures against the agent in India. He says there are several people like him who are not informed by recruitment agents in India that they will be taken to Iraq via Dubai.
According to officials in the Consulate General of India in Dubai, about 75 per cent of a little more than 300,000 illegals in the country are Indians. Though there’s no state-wise breakdown of Indian illegals, officials say about 65 per cent of illegal Indian immigrants are from Andhra Pradesh and most of them are semi-skilled or unskilled.
“Most of these immigrants from Andhra hail from drought-prone areas. They do jobs of all conceivable kinds once they arrive in the UAE. For instance, illegal car washers can earn up to Dh 3,000 per month,” says BS Mubarak, the labour consul and official spokesperson of the Indian consulate.
So, how can we possibly explain the fact that India has the largest number of illegals? “The country also has the largest number of legals!” counters Venu Rajamony, the Consul General of India. “Almost every country has to deal with the influx of illegal immigrants. It happens in the US or the UK. Even India faces the problem of illegal immigration from neighbouring countries. Migration primarily takes place because of economic imbalances.”
Says KK Sarachandra Bose, partner/ corporate, commercial and contract lawyer with Dar Al Adalah, Dubai, who has counselled a large number of Indian amnesty seekers, “About 80 to 90 per cent of these people came on valid visas. But they get duped by recruiting agents in India. And then they get exploited by their employers here. What will these hapless people do?
“There’s hardly any facility for blue-collar workers. We need a proper Indian association to represent people from all walks of life and take care of their problems. The consulate cannot do everything on its own!” adds Bose.
Changes in the offing
So, what action has been taken by the Indian government so far to crack down on unscrupulous agents who cheat poor people of their money and leave them in the lurch in a foreign land?
“Major revisions of the Indian Emigration Act 1983 are underway to monitor recruiting agents. Besides, some state governments are arranging for massive publicity campaigns in rural areas from where the influx generally originates. For example, local authorities in Andhra Pradesh are carrying out publicity campaigns in districts like Karimnagar and Nizamabad. They are making people aware of how they can fall prey to unscrupulous agents and how they should avoid them at all costs,” says Rajamony.
According to the Act, a foreign employer can recruit an Indian worker abroad either through an authorised recruiting agent (there are more than 1,800 authorised recruitment agencies in India) or by obtaining a valid permit issued by the authority concerned. The Act also says no person can operate as a recruitment agent without a registration certificate or a licence, which is issued by the Protector of Emigrants.
The Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs (MOIA) guidelines clearly say an emigrant should not pay more than Rs 2,000 as the service charge if a person happens to be unskilled. If anyone collects from an emigrant any charges that exceed the prescribed ceiling under the Act, the person can get a prison term not less than six months and not exceeding two years. The offender will also have to pay a minimum fine of Rs 1,000. Sources say when new amendments are introduced, the minimum period of imprisonment for illegal recruitment may be increased from six months to five years. There is also reportedly a proposal to hike the fine amount manifold from the current Rs 1,000.
Employers to blame
Employers are also to blame for the irregularities in recruitment process, say UAE officials. Ahmed Al Besher, a legal advisor and supervisor at the amnesty-seekers counter in the Ministry of Labour (MoL) in Abu Dhabi, says some employers hardly pay heed to legal formalities involved in recruitment process or otherwise. “They are mainly driven by profits. This explains why some companies do not bother about the status of workers, illegal or otherwise,” he notes. “Also, the fees for visas, labour cards, etc, seem to be too high for owners of some firms. Hence, they tend to recruit illegals.”
Acknowledging the fact that non-payment of salary is one of the reasons why workers turn “illegals”, he says, “The wages are too low in the private sector. We feel that there must be a minimum wage limit and I think the authorities concerned are carrying out studies in this regard.”
The UAE government has stringent laws in force to tackle labour violations committed by companies. In fact, as part of the harsh penalties, the MoL collected Dh420 million in fines imposed on companies during the past 18 months for expired labour cards and other violations of labour laws, according to labour ministry officials.
“Both governments are taking steps to deal with the issues,” says Rajamony.
Earlier this year, the UAE and India signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to protect the rights of Indian workers. Among other things, the MoU provides for facilitation of manpower recruitment and mutual sharing of information.
What role does the Indian consulate play in checking the credentials of companies recruiting Indian workers? “Of course, there are checks and balances. We go through the details submitted by companies wishing to hire Indian workers, unskilled or otherwise. We check the past employment records of the companies,” says the consulate spokesperson.
Officials say on an average, the consulate receives 150 to 180 labour-related complaints per month. “About 50-60 per cent of the complaints can be dealt with in Dubai itself. If the situation is beyond our control, we refer the cases to the MoL. There is also a Permanent Committee for Labour Affairs under the UAE government which tackles cases expeditiously,” explains Mubarak.According to officials, when the consulate receives a complaint from a worker against his or her company with regard to non-payment of wages or otherwise, the diplomatic mission contacts the firm. If the company says the agent is guilty of misinforming the worker, the consulate contacts the MOIA, which in turn gets in touch with the state government concerned. If it’s proved that the recruitment agency has cheated the worker, its registration certificate will be cancelled. Similarly, if a complaint is lodged against a company, the consulate gets in touch with the MOIA. If it’s guilty of labour violations, the company can be stopped by the ministry from recruiting Indian workers in future.
Though there’s no official figure showing how many recruitment agents or companies get blacklisted on an average, the consulate says it prepares a monthly report and dealing with such issues is a “routine affair”. According to the MOIA web site, there are 14 UAE companies, most of them from Dubai, on the list of blacklisted foreign employers.
Officials add strict action like cancellation of registration certificates will be taken by the Indian authorities if job-seekers complain about being charged exorbitant fees by any particular recruitment agency.
“We don’t charge anything from recruits. We charge the recruiting companies. The fee varies from company to company,” says a staff member of an avowedly authorised recruitment agency in Kolkata.
The UAE authorities are anticipating a huge rush at the end of this month (the amnesty ends on September 2). MoL officials say that most of the illegal workers prefer to come to the authorities concerned in the last few days.
Amnesty seekers on the other hand are a worried lot. “What if after fingerprinting and eye-scanning they put a ban on me? In that case, I will like to stay on,” says Molla.
But why does he want to take such risks? Why does he want to stay on as an illegal fully knowing the perils? “I admit I have been greedy. But if you want to do great things in life, there’s no harm in taking a little risk!”
Centres for consular services soon
DUBAI — The Consul General of India, Venu Rajamony, has said some centres for consular services, operated by professional external agencies, will be opened soon to help the consulate deal with various transactions faster.
Many amnesty seekers alleged that they were not getting adequate information from the consulate. “The consulate can answer questions only if they have the information about a particular query. All our officials have to be redeployed at the collection centres to deal with the rush. This is affecting our other services at the consulate. The legals are saying that we are abandoning them for the illegals!” said Rajamony.
On Indian workers landing in Iraq
The Government of India has banned workers from taking up jobs in Iraq in the aftermath of Gulf War II in 2003. But in some cases, it is believed recruiting agents are hiring workers in India and bringing them to Dubai only to send them to Iraq for work. “We have brought some newspaper articles in this regard to the notice of the authorities. We have also tried to sensitise airlines about workers being taken to Iraq. If we get details, we will definitely work on the issue and immediate action will be taken.”
Around 45,000 outpasses were issued during the amnesty period in 1996
Around 14,000 outpasses were issued during the amnesty period in 2003.
The consulate received more than 34,500 applications for Emergency Certificates (ECs) till August 1 this year. It has printed over 26,500 ECs and delivered 21,000 ECs.
Source: The Indian consulate in Dubai
Punishment for unauthorised recruitment agents in India
Complaints against unregistered agents are lodged with state police authorities.
If complaints are filed against authorised agents with MOIA or otherwise, their registration can be suspended
Any violation of the Emigration Act 1983 is a cognizable offence punishable by the court of law
UAE guidelines for private recruitment agencies
In this country, there are several recruitment agencies licensed to recruit manpower. These are subject to specific conditions; they may not receive any fees from the workers in consideration of the brokerage to find them a job. Should a recruitment agency operating in the UAE accept any amounts from any worker in consideration of his/her recruitment, the latter should immediately report to the nearest labour department.
Source: The Labour Ministry’s Guide to the Foreign Workers who wish to work in the UAE
(The names of some of the amnesty seekers have been changed on request)
With inputs from the KT bureau in Abu Dhabi
Amnesty-seeker dies just a day before his flight
DUBAI — AUG 6: He was slated to board a flight to return home today. But fate had willed otherwise for Bhumanna Muthanna, a 40-year-old Indian national from the south Indian state of Andhra Pradesh.
The desperate man who had spent nearly two years in the UAE as an illegal, died of cardiac arrest yesterday morning in Sharjah. Using the golden opportunity of amnesty, he had obtained an exit pass from the authorities, and was scheduled to board an Indian flight from Sharjah to Hyderabad on Monday.
According to Pinem Laxman, a relative of Bhumanna, the latter died while on the way to the Kuwaiti Hospital after complaining of chest pain.
“He was very happy on Saturday night. We had dinner together in the room. In the morning he complaint of chest pain,” Laxman said.
“Doctors confirmed that he had suffered cardiac arrest. He was ecstatic after receiving his exit pass from the immigration. All his stuff was packed in a baggage and he was ready to fly home,” Laxman added.
“On Saturday night, Bhumanna called home informing his wife and children that he would be home in two days. He did not have enough money to buy something for the family. But we went out together on Saturday evening and bought toys for his two children,” Laxman said.
“We will try to repatriate his body to India. But we do not know how to find money for it. We have informed his family in India about the tragedy,” Laxman added.
Muthanna come to Dubai on a visit visa two years ago. “He had paid a huge amount to the agent to obtain the visa. He was ditched by the agent. He had been desperate to return home. When the amnesty was announced he went to the Indian consulate and immigration office several times to get the documents ready,” Laxman said.
A BRIDGE TOO FAR
DUBAI - AUG 6: Pleasure trips on the Creek have had to be curtailed or cancelled because boats cannot pass through Dubai’s new floating bridge for much of the day. The crossing has eased traffic congestion in the city – but cruise operators say it is driving away tourists.
The bridge – located half a kilometre south of Al Maktoum Bridge – blocks the passage of vessels between 6am and 10pm.
Several operators are plan ning to meet officials from Dubai’s Department of Commerce and Tourism Marketing to discuss their grievance.
Nearly 30 traditional dhows and modern cruise ships are used for leisure trips on the Creek. This is a peak time for operators as thousands of Emiratis and GCC tourists escape the summer heat in the luxurious air-conditioned interiors of the boats.
At 10pm, the floating bridge is closed to traffic and a sec tion opens to allow vessels to pass. Cruise operator Al Boom Tourist Village previously ran three trips a day towards the mouth of the Creek and back – at 2pm, 8.30pm and 10.30pm.
Now, because of the bridge opening hours, the 2pm lunch service has been cancelled. The 8.30pm dinner cruise operates on a different route to Festival City – depriving customers of the chance to see the old part of Dubai by night. Only the 10.30pm serv ice is able to run as normal – and other companies have been similarly affected.
“We have five dhows and most of our customers are Emiratis and Arab family tourists from the GCC,” said Al Boom Marketing Manager Nouras Abdul Kareem Hamid. “After the floating bridge was opened in July we stopped our afternoon cruise. Most GCC and Emirati customers come here to enjoy a cruise on a traditional boat on Dubai Creek – they ask for a lunch or dinner cruise. These families don’t like to be out on a boat at midnight.” Al Boom was planning to open a floating Italian restaurant on a traditional vessel – but the plan may not proceed because of the bridge.
“We are talking to other cruise operators who share the same problem,” said Hamid. “We will meet the tourism department officials.” Lama Dubai, another leading cruise boat operator, is also offering only a late-night cruise service. Cruise-boat Manager Avtar Singh said: “Business has been affected by the bridge – it is a common problem for all the operators.” But not all companies are complaining. Karama Hotel Manager Venugopala Menon said: “We are launching a new luxury cruise boat service from Deira on August 8 because there is enough business potential. The floating bridge is not a problem for us because there are other routes.” And the difficulty will eventually disappear for all the operators – the bridge is only a temporary structure.
Passports still unclaimed despite recent amnesty
UAE - AUG 6: Thousands of passports of Indian nationals are lying unclaimed at the Consul General’s office in Dubai two months after the announcement of an amnesty. Indian officials said out of the 40,000 passports handed over to them by immigration authorities, fewer than 16,000 have been collected.
More than 24,000 passports have yet to be claimed by their owners, who have either not yet applied for the amnesty or approached the mission to find their lost passports.
An official said some people are applying for emergency certificates from the consulate – which are required when an amnesty-seeker does not have a passport – without checking first to see if their passport is already at the consulate.
“Many of the passports have expired and more than 11,000 have been lying with us since last year or longer,” said the official.
“Those who do not have their passport can either verify [if we have it] at the consulate or at the collection centre at the Indian High School in Dubai, before applying for out passes,” he said.
Details of passports which are in still in the custody of the consulate are also listed on the consulate’s website: www.cgidubai.com.
The authorities usually only come into possession of passports when employees abscond from their legal place of work.
Since the announcement of the UAE’s general amnesty for illegal workers, Dubai Immigration has sent around 30,000 Indian passports to the consulate, where as 6,000 passports were handed over by Sharjah Immigration.
Consul General Venu Rajamony has urged people not to wait until the last minute to submit applications for emergency certificates. He warned that it can take up to 14 days to complete the administration procedures at the consulate and at UAE immigration offices.
The Indian Consulate had previously set August 14 as the deadline to receive applications from amnesty seekers for emergency certificates.
etisalat and du offer new services
UAE - AUG 6: Telecom operators in Dubai are heating up their competition with new offers – and customers are the big winners. While du is offering its services to visitors, etisalat has extended its Favourite Country Plan to include fixedline subscribers.
Visitors arriving at Dubai International Airport will now be offered a mobile connection as soon as they land as part of a new link-up between meet-and-greet service Marhaba and du.
Marhaba already offers limousine and floral services to passengers. Now, it will also make available the du Visitor Mobile Line Pack, which provides a connection as well as maps and tourist guides.
Osman Sultan, CEO of du, said: “Now visitors can enjoy their time in the UAE and be worry-free when it comes to making phone calls.” While du is hoping to cor ner the visitor market, etisalat is rewarding fixed-line subscribers with discounts on calls to one international destination. With no rental or subscription fees, etisalat is offering the Favourite Country Plan, launched in June for mobile users, which offers 30 per cent savings on calls to a subscriber’s chosen country.
Customers have the option of changing their favourite country. However, each change or cancellation of subscription will cost Dh10.
UAE - AUG 6: Heat stroke results when the body’s temperature-regulating mechanism fails and the body is unable to cool itself. Heat stroke is a lifethreatening medical condition and can lead to death. Anyone with suspected heat stroke should seek medical help immediately. Symptoms:
Unconsciousness for longer than a few seconds Convulsions (seizure) High body temperature Confusion or anxiety Fast heart rate Hot, flushed skin together with either excessive sweating or no sweating Severe vomiting and diarrhoea Heat exhaustion is the most common heat-related illness in the UAE. It occurs when the body loses large amounts of water and salt through excessive sweating. Though not life threatening, prompt medical attention is recommended. Symptoms:
Dizziness Nausea Headache Cramps Excessive sweating
HOW TO STAY HEALTHY IN THE SUN
Protect yourself from exposure and drink plenty of liquids to avoid falling ill during summer’s extreme temperatures, doctors recommend. Dr Murray van Dyke, Chairman of the Department of Emergency Medicine at the Sheikh Khalifa Medical City, warned people to take extra care to combat heat exhaustion and other heat-related illnesses.
“Young children and pets should be protected from excessive exposure to sun, and they should not be left unattended, especially in automobiles. The same is the case with pregnant women,” he said.
“People under medication for chronic diseases, lung or kidneyrelated diseases, should also be extra cautious as some kinds of medicines are predisposed towards developing heat stroke or heat exhaustion,” Dr van Dyke said.
People working outdoors, especially on hot days, should consume at least one litre of water every hour to supplement the fluid loss, he said.
And in normal conditions, it is advisable to drink eight to 10 glasses of water a day.
“However, what you drink is equally important to how much you drink,” warned the medical expert.
“Any drink with high amounts of sugar and caffeine would make you discharge more liquids than you actually consume, thus increasing the chances of dehydration.” (Anjana Sankar)
Fujairah - Swimmer dies off Snoopy Island
Fujairah - AUG 6:Hotels in Fujairah are warning visitors to take extra care in the sea after a British expat died while taking a swim off Snoopy Island.
The Dubai resident, believed to be between 35 and 40-years-old and a strong swimmer, was on holiday with friends at the popular Sandy Beach Resort when tragedy struck on Saturday afternoon. The man, who apparently made the same swim twice previously that weekend without difficulty, is believed to have set out at around 11am but was spotted by divers around an hour later looking tired. He was around 150m from shore and beyond the visibility of the resort’s lifeguards.
A spokesperson for the hotel said: “Customers reported him to our lifeguards and our dive centre took a kayak out to rescue him. Unfortunately CPR attempts failed.”
Dubai - Workers offered support
Dubai - Aug 6: A new welfare centre providing counselling care for Indian workers who have fallen on hard times is set to open in Dubai by the end of the year. It will be one of three such centres providing financial, legal and medical help. The other two are to be set up in Washington in the United States and Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, by October.
A senior official in the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs (MOIA) said cabinet approval has already been granted for the Dubai centre, which will be run under the jurisdiction of the Indian ambassador to the UAE. The centre will serve the needs of around five million Indians, many of whom work as contract labourers, in six Gulf nations - the UAE, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.
Each welfare centre will be run by an officer at consular level, who would report to the MOIA and be assisted by legal, financial and medical counsellors. The MOIA official said: “These counsellors will be taken preferably from Indians settled in that country but we are not averse to taking local citizens of the country concerned.”
While the Washington office will only have legal and financial counsellors and the Kuala Lumpur office legal and medical counsellors, in Dubai workers will have access to all three. “In Dubai, the legal counsellor will basically work on workers’ rights. The medical or health counsellor will render psychiatric help to traumatised workers, especially domestic maids. The financial counsellor will help workers make investments from their small savings instead of sending all their earnings to India.”
But Dubai-based Indian workers yesterday sounded a note of caution, despite saying they were delighted with the announcement. “We welcome this initiative. However, these services must reach the workers who toil hard to earn a living here. “Many initiatives by the consulate never reach us,” said Arvind MK, a construction worker.
At the Washington centre, the legal counsellor’s work will concentrate on resolving problems arising from marriages between Indian citizens and overseas Indians. There have been numerous reports of Indian brides being abandoned, abused or betrayed after getting married to Indians in the US.
The MOIA official said the role of the financial counsellor would be to primarily aid Indians there who are interested in investing in the booming Indian economy. “In the Kuala Lumpur centre, which will cover Southeast Asia, the role of the legal and medical counsellors will be similar to those in Dubai,” he said.