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India on pact-signing spree to protect workers in Gulf

Indian workers in all major destinations in the Gulf will soon get protection from unfair employers, reports Nagendar Sharma.
Hindustan Times | By Nagendar Sharma, New Delhi
UPDATED ON APR 09, 2008 02:26 AM IST

The government, which already has a successful pact with UAE in place, plans to enter into similar bilateral agreements with Bahrain and Oman to protect the interests of Indian workers. The government also has similar pacts with Qatar and Kuwait.

“Nearly 45 lakh Indian workers are employed in the Gulf countries. We want all of them to have a legal status, and good conditions for working. Bilateral agreements would provide them security and housing benefits,” Vayalar Ravi, minister for Overseas Indian Affairs, told Hindustan Times.

The success of the pact with UAE 18 months ago drove the government for pacts with other countries. “The main achievement of the UAE agreement is that the workers duration of stay there is not connected with the employers’ contract. They are free to change jobs and the visa would be extended accordingly,” Ravi said.

The UAE government has agreed to include the living conditions of workers as basic guidelines for recruiting

"Every employer would be bound by those guidelines," the minister said.

Ravi refuted reports that the government was imposing salary conditions on employers in the Gulf. "The salaries would be mutually agreed between the worker and the company. There is no condition from our side, but it should not be less than the minimum paid in that country."

Ravi said the safeguards would include clearly specified duration of contract, conditions of employment, leave entitlement and a guaranteed ticket to India annually.

Currently, nearly 20 lakh Indian workers in the Gulf are employed in trades not covered by labour laws. Bilateral agreements would provide them a legal cover, ministry officials said.

They added that the pacts would help fight illegal immigration. "We want to discourage illegal immigration and the best way to do so is to provide solid support to those who go by legal means. By helping in the implementation of such measures, those in the hiding would also come out," an official said.

The official said workers safeguards in the Gulf region were a priority as in the government view, the regimes there were not "worker friendly as compared to Europe".

The government has also finalised terms for a similar pact with Malaysia, another hot destination for Indian workers.

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