New Delhi, Aug 1: Watching your fellow countrymen stand in queue for food is never a good sight. External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had said that the number of Indians facing a food crisis in Saudi Arabia is not 800 as reported, but over ten thousand.
Most of these employees from India have not been paid their wages and the minister of state for external affairs, General VK Singh would be in Saudi Arabia to sort out the issue.
The problem being faced by the Indian workers in Saudi Arabia is not a simple one and would require a long term fix. Most of them are victims of the Kafala system and this has only ensured that these employees are unable to switch jobs even if their employer does not pay them.
Tied to the employer
Reports of abusive employers in Saudi Arabia is not uncommon. Several cases have been reported in the past about employees trying to flee after they have been abused, tortured and not paid.
However, running away from such a situation is not easy and this is thanks to the regressive Kafala system that Saudi Arabia and other countries such as Oman, UAE and Bahrain follow.
The Kafala system makes it mandatory for a person to take the consent of his employer before he quits the job. Many even have to deposit their passports with the employer and this only makes running away harder. Under this regressive system if a person leaves the job without his employers consent then he or she can be fined, imprisoned and also deported.
Human Rights watch had in a report pointed out rampant employer abuses of migrant workers, including forcing them to work against their will or on exploitative terms. The visa system ties workers residency to employment and this grants the employer a lot of power to abuse the workers, the report also noted.
In this context one must look at the recent case of Munirathna, a maid from Tamil Nadu. She worked for 15 hours a day and was provided just one meal. To make matters worse her employer even cut of her hand when she tried to run away.
There are thousands of such cases in Saudi Arabia and working conditions have only gone from bad to worse. What is worse is that despite so many human rights violations being reported the Kingdom has done nothing to fix the problem.