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Thursday, 20 June 2013

MODERN DAY SLAVERY IN DUBAI

By Vaibhav Bhosle

Every year thousands of poor and needy people from the Indian subcontinent land in Gulf countries for small time jobs such as 'hard hat worker'. They are promised decent accommodations, satisfactory supplies of food and water with other basic amenities. But, as soon they land in the city of lights, the land unveils its ugly side.

The story starts from neglected and unnoticed rural areas of developing countries like India, Bangladesh and Pakistan. A hiring agent approaches the locals to makes an offer they can't refuse. He promises them sufficient amount of wages so that they could save ample sum and send to support their wretched kins back home.

Initially, they have to pay an up-front fee to the hiring agent which they can easily pay-off within few months of service. The poor villager burdens himself with a loan or even sells his family land to pay the fees for arrangement of visa and other official documents. Within few days, after the hefty payment, they land in some Gulf country.

The poor villagers arrive with an array of hope for even tiny bit of escalation in their financial conditions. But, as soon as they arrive, their passports are confiscated by the company (it is illegal to seize passport of an employee by the organization). They are informed about their work hours, which is about 12 to 14 hours a day and six days a week. Assured about comfortable living conditions, about 8-10 workers are forced to live in a tiny room in utmost squalid atmosphere. Dingy washrooms with almost negligible water supply. The drinking water offered is not properly desalinated which causes health problems to the workers. The labors build fire in the backyard as there are no cooking facilities provided by the company.

 

The labor camp is a shanty town like area, few miles away from the cloud hugging structures of Dubai. The area is kept in complete darkness with not even street lights. Millions of tourists visiting every year are oblivious of such modern day slavery.

We all have heard about the scorching heat in Gulf countries. In day time, the temperature even reaches 50 degrees celsius. According to the law, the workers should not work above this temperature. But, the workers never go off work and continue working on the sites without sufficient water and food. If a worker stops his work for sometime due to ill health, his wages are cut.

There is absolutely no escape from this slavery. It is similar to bonded labour. Unless the upfront fee paid off to the company, there is no getaway from this bonded labourship. Even if the workers are handed their passports back, they don't have money to go back home. Hence, they are caught and continue to serve the company.

Trade unions and labor strikes are illegal in Dubai. So, even if a worker decides to revolt against the construction company, he'll be jailed.

Behind all the glitzy structures, the hidden face never comes into light. In 2005, Indian consulate even submitted a report to the Indian Government detailing labor problems such as delayed payments, long working hours and premature termination of services. Despite, Human Rights watch the construction companies still continue to confiscate passports and do not pay the salaries promised to them. The Government still argues that no injustice is done to the labors.  

This grave situation can be appropriately entitled as ' Modern Day Slavery'.


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