Condition of Indian labour in West Asia needs improvement

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Panaji, Jan 9 (UNI) The Government of India is negotiating with its counterparts in Oman and Bahrain to sign Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) to improve the conditions of the working Indian labour and their welfare in these countries like in the UAE, Kuwait and Qatar.

Informing the mediapersons here today, Commissioner of NRI affairs in Goa Eduardo Faleiro said the MOUs shall state required specifications and qualifications for the jobs needed in those countries.

It shall include the details of the contract, the conditions of employment, including the salary agreed, the end of service benefits, medical facilities, leave emoluments, to and fro passages and other facilities such as transportation and accommodation. The contract should be accompanied by a copy of the work permit issued by the Ministry of Labour of the host country.

Mr Faleiro, who had just returned after touring Oman, the UAE and Bahrain, besides Kuwait and Qatar to identify their grievances of the Goan expatriates and study the labour market in those countries said he has planned to meet the External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and the Minister of Overseas Indian Affairs Ayalar Ravi, soon to appraise them of the situation of expatriates abroad.

He wished that the Centre will soon devise ways and means to regulate recruitment of Indian labour working abroad so as to provide them with higher wages and improved working and living conditions as has already been done by some other countries.

Mr Faleiro was accompanied by Vice-Admiral (retd.) John de Silva, Chairman of Goa's Overseas Employment Agency and U D Kamat, Director, NRI Affairs for the visits abroad during which he had met respective labour ministers and others besides interacting with the Goan and Indian community.

Recently, the Government of Bahrain, he said, has decided to abolish the sponsorship system since it did not provide for a level playing field for employers and employees. It has also decided to enforce a mid day break during the summer months which will have positive effects on the productivity of the workers involved in the construction sector.

In Oman, the Government has decided that the worker was to keep his passport with himself unless he or she decided to voluntarily entrust it to the employer. The Government had also issued instructions that the salary of the workers should be paid by cheque and through banks to ensure timely and correct payment.

The Government of the UAE had set up a Commission of Inquiry to look into the living and working conditions of the expatriate labour besides demands for higher wages for different categories of workers.

A grievances redressal mechanism had been set up in which Indian Embassy officials will be meeting the UAE Labour Ministry officials at least once a month to redress specific grievances.

''India needs to do a lot more to improve arrangements pertaining to our workers abroad. As of now, we live in an uncontrolled market situation where government authorities, such as the MOIA and our embassies and consulates are entirely excluded from the recruitment process. As a result, our Government does not know the number of workers recruited nor their working and living conditions,'' he said.

The Indian community in the Gulf is the largest in the region numbering around 45 lakh and the Goan community accounts for about 1.5 lakh. Overall the Indian community is reasonably satisfied with the working and living conditions but there are many exceptions with scope for improvement.

In recent times, the governments of the Gulf countries have been proactive in addressing the concerns of the expatriate labour community because these countries had taken up major construction programmes with ambitious deadlines and would not like these projects to be delayed due to labour unrest.

Another reason was that they wish to emerge as global service providers and are anxious to have a good international image as a friendly investment and tourism destination.

They are also aware that they are under the scrutiny of international human rights organisations and would like to ensure that nothing occurs in their countries that tarnish their image, Mr Faleiro added.

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