The Government has asked the Indian workers on strike in the United States to furnish evidence against the recruitment agents who sent them on false promises of US green cards and overcharged them for the deal.
The workers, hired to work in Pascagoula, Mississippi, by marine fabrication company Signal International have been on a hunger strike for the past 12 days, demanding action against the firm and its Mumbai-based recruitment agent.
The issue had come to light over two months ago, when Hindustan Times reported that the workers were being forced to live and work in inhuman conditions at a shipyard camp on the American Gulf Coast.
The Ministry for Overseas Indian Affairs said it wanted the workers to provide details of their deals to make “a strong case against these agents indulging in cheating and overcharging innocents under the garb of providing jobs abroad”.
“We appeal to the workers to cooperate with us in the criminal proceedings initiated against the agent. An FIR has been registered against Mumbai-based recruitment agent, Dewan Consultants, whose licence was earlier suspended,” a ministry official said.
Overseas Indian Affairs Minister Vyalar Ravi said the workers could get relief only under the Indian law. “The government has been fighting for the workers’ rights for two months, but we are limited because we can provide them relief only in accordance with the Indian law,” he said.
Ministry officials said they were continuing efforts to convince the protesting workers to stay in touch with the government “and not run an unguided agitation which may not yield results, as India had no jurisdiction in the state of affairs in the US”.
However, both Signal International and Dewan Consultants have denied the charges against them.
The workers have expressed unhappiness over the lack of interest shown by the Indian government and its embassy in Washington on the issue.
They have the support of a former union minister and crusader against human trafficking, Balwant Singh Ramoowalia. “The government’s attitude in this case has been completely casual. The agent should have been booked on charges of human trafficking and not simply cheating and overcharging. Nothing has been done to deal with the problem in a stringent manner,” he said.