When Gopal Ram left for Tokyo, Japan, in September 2015, he was flush with hopes and dreams of a better future for himself, and his family. Little did he know that a little over a year later, his family would not even be able to afford to bring his remains back home.
Gopal Ram passed away from a cardiac arrest on December 10. His family is still struggling to get his body back to India.
“The Indian Embassy in Japan has been asking for documents like a letter authorising somebody to receive his remains in Tokyo, and also an income certificate to prove that we are not able to afford his repatriation. We don’t know anybody in Japan that we can authorise to receive my father’s body. The income certificate is also taking a long time with every government official I meet asking me to either come later or meet somebody else,” said his oldest son, Jatin, a Chartered Accountancy student.
The 48-year-old worked as a cook in India but with three children under the age of 25, he hoped that an agent’s offer to send him to Tokyo would ease some of his financial pressure. “It was an agent based in Hauz Khas who said that he would arrange a job and a visa for my husband for Rs2.5 lakh. My husband was lured with promises of a better quality of life, and a higher salary. Lekin is do paise ke chakkar mein, aadmi ka jaan hi nikal gayi (But in the race to earn more, he lost his life),” said Radha Devi, his wife.
After the first three months, Gopal Ram allegedly stopped getting his salary, so he was not able to send home any money. “They used to make him do menial jobs like wash dishes at the first place, and did not even pay his salary. He then shifted jobs and was working as a cook at a hotel or restaurant. But even there he was not paid regularly. He was paid once six months ago, but even that cash a friend borrowed from him, with promises that he will pay to pay back. The friend gambled it all away. We have not received any money from him in more than six months,” said Jatin.
The family has been struggling to make ends meet and afford food. “My house is mortgaged. I had to borrow money from my neighbours to buy rice. The only source of income I have now is the rent I get from leasing a room. This is no more than Rs3,000 per month. You tell me if it is possible to survive and feed three children with that amount. How will we be able to afford the lakhs of rupees needed to transport him home?” asks Devi.
She has since contacted the Delhi Commission for Women, which escalated the issue to External Affairs minister Sushma Swaraj in an official letter on Friday, for some respite. “I just want to see him once before he is gone forever,” said the tearful wife.