One more Indian worker among those who have been on protest hunger strike for the past nine days was admitted to hospital on Friday, taking the total number of those hospitalized to four.
The New Orleans Workers’ Centre for Racial Justice, which is supporting the workers, said in a press statement that Christopher Glory, Sony Sulekha, Kachuru Dananjaya and Muruganantham Kandhasami had been removed to hospital as their blood pressure levels had grown erratic, and in one case, dangerously low.
The workers want a US Congressional hearing into abuses of the H-2B visa programme, under which guest workers are allowed into the country, as well as the right to remain in the US while the department of justice and other entities investigate their case. “Barring hospitalisation, they intend to fast for 21 days,” said Stephen Boykewich, media director of the NOWCRJ.
The workers on hunger strike are part of a group of 500 who came to the US to work for Signal International, a marine and fabrication company in Pascagoula, Mississippi. The company assured them that they would eventually be able to migrate to the US permanently. The workers paid recruiters up to $20,000. But when they arrived in the US, the workers found that not only were their chances of permanent residence non existent, their working conditions were also awful.
“We were like pigs in a cage,” said Sabulal Vijayan, a former worker, who even tried to commit suicide by slitting his wrists when he was threatened with deportation after he protested against the way he and other workers were being treated. The workers filed a complaint in the district court of Louisiana in March.
In response to the complaint Signal has denied all allegations of ill treatment of the workers, and complete ignorance about whether or not they had to pay their recruiters.
Apart from the Louisiana hearings, the Department of Justice also launched an investigation into the case in March, shortly after more than 100 Indian employees of Signal walked away from their jobs. The strikers have also received support from several Congressmen, notably George Miller, a California Democrat who chairs the House Committee on Education and Labor.