Less than a month after Indian workers in Bahrain went on a flash strike against their employers for better pay and improved medical facilities, 100 Indians employed with Signal International at Pascagoula in Mississippi, US, have followed suit. The workers alleged that they had paid $20,000 for the job to a recruiter and were promised green cards. But when they reached their dream destination, they were kept ‘like pigs in a cage’ in a company-run ‘work camp’. And when they started to protest against ‘human trafficking’, they faced retaliation. They are now left with neither a job nor any legal permit to look for some other work since they were taken to the US on H2B visas, meant for temporary workers. The Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs, Vayalar Ravi, has asked the Indian embassy to look into the matter. Similar reports of abuse of Indian maids have also hit the headlines quite often.
The starting point of this trafficking route has remained the same down the years: recruiters luring unsuspecting workers with the promise of a good life. And considering India’s nearly 9 per cent growth rate has not been matched by growth in employment and the poor state of agriculture, the country has been a fertile catchment area for touts. Sometimes, the very people who are supposed to stop this illegal activity aid the whole process: in February, an Indian Foreign Service officer was charge-sheeted for his alleged involvement in trafficking.
In a globalised world, there is no point asking people to desist from taking up foreign jobs. If there is a demand, there will always be people willing to risk their luck. It is here that the government’s role becomes important in closing down these fraud recruiters, punishing the guilty and taking up the issue with respective countries. At the ground level, sensitisation is a must. These workers may not be as important as those who enjoy the limelight at the annual Pravasi Divas, but let us not forget that they are our people, our human resource.