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NRIs abandoned by Bahrain employer

A group of Indians are among the 40 workers facing destitution because their employer withheld pay.
None | By Indo-Asian News Service, Dubai
PUBLISHED ON MAR 28, 2006 01:58 PM IST

A group of Indians is among 40 Asian workers who claim they have been abandoned by their Bahraini employer and now face the prospect of hunger and starvation.

The workers, including Pakistanis and Nepalis, say the company, Al Khaja Establishment, has not paid their salaries for the last nine months, the Gulf Daily News newspaper reported.

There are over 130,000 Indians in Bahrain, most of who work on contracts. The company, however, claims it is the workers who have run away.

"They are the ones who abandoned their company to work for others," the report quoted company chairman Jassim Al Khaja as saying.

"Unfortunately this is all very common in Bahrain. The problem is these workers have resigned from Al Khaja and are working for other companies."

The workers have filed five court cases against the company.

One case was heard Monday in which an Indian driver, Prabhu Narayan, was present with his Bahraini lawyer Mohammed Al Watani. The case has been adjourned to May 14, according to the report.

"These workers are not runaways," the report quoted Al Watani as saying. "In fact, it is their company that has run away from them.

"Some of these workers have been with the same company for 20 years, and Narayan himself has been working there for about 18 years, so why run away now?"

The men denied working for other companies, saying they were "too scared" to try, according to the report.

Another Indian worker, Gangaram Muttana Jane, holds a telegram from home, which informed him of his wife's death in January this year. He wants to return to India to take care of his two children, aged 10 and 12.

Penta Rajaiah, also Indian, says his wife is seriously ill with cancer. He needs the Bahraini dinar (BHD) 1,335 he says the company owes him, to pay for her treatment.

The workers are now faced with fresh trouble. A nearby store in which the workers had run up a huge credit bill has now decided to stop giving them food for credit.

"I want to help them as much as I can," cold store owner Esmail Moideen told the newspaper. "But I too am losing out."

The workers say they have food supplies that will last only a week.

The Indian and Pakistani embassies in Bahrain have reportedly been informed of the workers' plight and have sent official letters to the labour ministry, the report quoted Surya Charitable and Cultural Association (SCCA) general secretary and Indian Community Relief Fund (ICRF) treasurer K.R. Nair as saying.

Nepali Club (Bahrain) president Nem Thapa has also informed the Nepal embassy in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, about the case. "The embassies are doing all they can," Nair said.

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