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Govt to take steps for safety of NRIs in Gulf

India is setting into motion strict new measures to protect its people, particularly women, working in the Gulf.

india Updated: Mar 21, 2006 15:54 IST

India is setting into motion strict new measures to protect its people, particularly women, working in the Gulf.

All Indian women coming to work in the Gulf will have to register with their embassy once they arrive, media reports quoted Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs Vayalar Ravi as telling Indian ambassadors in the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC).

Tight clamps are also being introduced to combat rogue recruiters in India, Ravi told envoys from Gulf region at the Ramada Hotel in Doha.

New laws will ensure jail sentences for recruiters who cheat workers, Ravi said. He urged the envoys to study the plight of Indian workers who have become victims of exploitation by unscrupulous recruiting agents.

There are 4,580 registered recruiting agents in India, of which about 2,500 are active in business, he said.

"The licences of 120 agents were cancelled over three years following complaints of exploitation of workers seeking jobs in the Gulf," Ravi said.

"Though there are provisions for suspending and canceling their licences, the government feels a more stringent approach is necessary to curb the illegal activities of recruiting agents.

"Nothing less than a jail sentence to violators of law is needed. To ensure such stringent actions, the government is now working to amend the 1983 Indian Immigration Act," he said.

Recruiting agents will be brought under the Act, which will stipulate harsh penalties for violators.

Ravi said his ministry would make it compulsory for all Indian women, including housemaids, seeking jobs in the Gulf to register with the respective Indian embassies.

"This is to stop the increasing number of Indian housemaids becoming victims of abuse by rogue employers and sponsors," he said on the second day of the two-day meeting that concluded on Monday.

The Indian ambassadors have presented several case studies of such abuses at the meeting.

"The ministry will study the report in detail and come out with effective measures to stop this," he said.

The envoys were also urged to prepare a detailed report on Indians languishing in jails in GCC countries.

Ravi said his ministry had received numerous letters seeking the government's intervention in securing the release of Indians held in various jails in the Gulf.
"I have instructed the ambassadors to prepare an in-depth report on Indian nationals jailed in the Gulf for various offences," the minister told the Gulf Daily News, after the first session of the meeting.

"I have asked them to study the nature of the offences so that legal assistance and support can be given to them."

Ravi said a bill granting voting rights to non-resident Indians (NRIs) had already been introduced in parliament.

"It will help NRIs exercise their franchise if they happen to be in the country at the time of elections," he added.

The report also quoted India's ambassador to Bahrain, Balkrishna Shetty, as saying that the meeting was extremely useful.

"The outcome of the meeting and the follow up actions would go a long way in alleviating the sufferings of hundreds of Indian nationals working in the Gulf," he told the newspaper.

Among others who attended the meeting were Non-Resident Keralite Affairs (Norka) chairman M.M. Hassan, Norka principal secretary Jiji Thomson and Norka directors M.A. Yousuf Ali and C.K. Menon.

There are over three million Indians working in the GCC that comprises Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Oman.

First Published: Mar 21, 2006 15:54 IST