A group of construction workers who returned from Iraq recently gathered at the Sector-19 police station here on Monday to complain against the emigration agency that had sent them to the strife-torn country.
The men — from Punjab and Haryana — alleged that the agent had duped them by promising salary of $800 (around Rs 48,000) a month, but they had not got any salary since they reached Iraq in May and started working for a building firm there. Appreciating the Indian government for making arrangements for their safe return, one of the men, Sohan Singh of Hoshiarpur, said, “I had never thought I would be able to come back home ever, as I had no money to buy the ticket. And the situation in Iraq was going from bad to worse.”
Sohan was part of the group of 28 that reached New Delhi on July 5. They were staying at Badra, a town in south-eastern Iraq near the Iran. “We had made a request to our company officials to make some arrangements for our departure from Iraq as we were not feeling safe. But the company officials did not do anything other than arranging a bus for us to reach the Indian embassy which was 200km from where we were staying,” said Harjinder Singh. “We stayed there for a night and the Indian government arranged for our flight and also gave us $20 (Rs 1,200) each.”
A native of Hoshiarpur, Harjinder said, “When I began my journey for Iraq on May 2, I had never thought that this would be the beginning of an ordeal. The travel agent who had got me the visa for Iraq had assured that I would get job in a British company for $800 per month.”
“Even if there would not have been any unrest in Iraq, we would have been struggling without money and no means to get back home,” said many of the men.
Nirwal Singh, another of the men, rued, “Even after completing one month, we were not given salary. We had taken a loan and paid Rs 1.5 lakh to Rs 2 lakh each to the agent for immigration to Iraq, and had also taken along at least $200 (Rs 12,000) each for the initial days. But the money was spent, leaving us penniless. Now we have come back with a debt of over Rs 2 lakh each.”
Deputy superintendent of police (DSP), east, Anjitha Chepyala, when asked about the complaint, said, “The group of people, around 28 from Punjaband Haryana, gathered at Sector-19 police station and verbally complained against Shiv Enterprises based in Sector 20. We are yet to receive a written complaint and will take legal opinion before registering any case. We have to verify the claims.”
Director Shiv Enterprises, Narinder Sharma, told HT, “These men had gone to Iraq just about two months back, and suddenly the unrest came up. Even the company’s officials fear for their life. We have sympathy with the people who have come back; but in the given situation what can anyone do? People have gone from across India and facing the same consequences.”