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Rogue firm still eyeing Indians: Ravi

Signal International is still recruiting Indians for work through another agent in Mumbai, reports Jatin Gandhi.
Hindustan Times | By Jatin Gandhi, New Delhi
UPDATED ON MAR 10, 2008 02:34 AM IST

Signal International, the company accused of human trafficking and ill-treating Indian workers in Mississippi, is still recruiting Indians for work through another agent in Mumbai. Revealing this to the Hindustan Times on Sunday, Union minister for Overseas Indian Affairs (OAI) Vayalar Ravi said the number of Indian workers employed with the company in the US is “more than 600”.

“They are issuing one-year visas to these people and promising them green cards. We are now looking at the involvement of the US authorities in the matter. We want to know how these people were issued H-2B visas,” Ravi said.

Ministry sources said Ravi spoke with some workers in Mississippi who had staged protests and the families of some of them in India. “The agents have threatened to burn their passports. We are going to pursue the matter seriously and vigorously,” Ravi said when asked about the alleged intimidation of workers.

“Why should I threaten them? How can I threaten them? Everybody has the freedom to comment. But what I can say I that the allegations are absolutely false,” said Dewan, MD, Dewan Consultants Pvt Ltd, the Mumbai-based firm that had recruited the 120 workers.

Driven by the news that Signal International is reportedly recruiting more Indian workers through Mumbai recruiter S Mansur & Company, the workers who lodged a protest against Signal on Friday, have demanded that the Indian and US governments put an immediate halt to the alleged “international trafficking” ring. S. Mansur & Company allegedly charged workers $15,000 for temporary H2B visas.

“We hope Ravi’s commitments will be the first step by the Indian government in pressuring the US to bring these labour traffickers to justice,” said Saket Soni, director of the New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice.

Ravi added that the Indian ambassador in the US is sending a team of embassy officials to meet the Indian workers at the shipyard off the Gulf of Mexico who had lodged the protest reported in the Hindustan Times.

The OIA minister had written to Indian Ambassador to the US Ronen Sen and later spoken with him on phone to get the Indian Embassy in Washington to probe the matter. India is also likely to take up the mater with US authorities.

Meanwhile, Indian workers in the US have urged Ravi to protect their families from Indian recruiter. The workers thanked the minister for his offer of help and asked for a meeting with Sen.

On Monday, the workers will send a formal letter to Ambassador Sen, inviting him to New Orleans to meet all 120
of them. “We will invite the Indian Ambassador to a mass meeting where workers will present evidence that the company Signal International and recruiters in both countries conspired to exploit hundreds of Indians in a labor trafficking scheme,” said Sabulal Vijayan, a former employee of Signal.

“We will also ask the minister to immediately contact the Mumbai recruiter Sachin Dewan, who initiated this trafficking ring. We want Ravi to tell Dewan that he and his associates must refrain from contacting our families in order to intimidate them,” Vijayan said.

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