Vayalar Ravi urges Indians to be calm

The Minister of Overseas Indian Affairs has asked the workers in UAE to stay away from violent protests.

india Updated: May 05, 2006 13:46 IST

India's Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs Vayalar Ravi has called upon Indian workers in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) not to indulge in violent protests.

Ravi, who is on the second leg of a three-nation tour of the Gulf, said this while speaking to mediapersons at a felicitation ceremony organised in his honour by the Indian Business and Professional Council at Movenpick Hotel in Bur Dubai on Thursday.

The minister's comments came in the wake of two violent protests involving Indian workers in Dubai.

The workers were protesting against what they called low salaries and bad living and working conditions. There are around a million Indians in the UAE.

Ravi, in the course of his interaction with the media, said, "Recently I have noted that the protest staged by the Indian workers have turned violent. It is not a right practice.

If they have any problems, they should contact the Indian missions to take up the issue with the local authorities."

Mentioning that he would be meeting UAE Labour Minister Dr Ali bin Abdullah Al Kaabi on Saturday, he said that he would take up the issues of Indian workers in Dubai in the course of the meeting.

Prior to Dubai, the minister was in Bahrain Wednesday where he met that country's Crown Prince Shaikh Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa and Labour Minister Dr Majeed Al Alawi.

In those meetings too he raised the issue of Indian expatriate workers in Bahrain.

He requested the Crown Prince to grant a general amnesty which will help Indian labourers, who have overstayed their visa period and incurred huge fines, to either set their papers right or leave the country.

According to media reports in Bahrain, the Crown Prince also assured the visiting minister that Bahrain was in the process of dismantling the sponsorship system currently prevailing and that a new system will come into place that will create a level playing field for expatriate and Bahraini workers.

Indians, numbering over 130,000, comprise the largest expatriate community in this Gulf nation.

The minister was quoted as saying that he also expressed India's keenness to work with Bahraini authorities to crack down on fraudulent recruiting agents who exploit workers.

"It is a two-way process where Bahraini authorities crack down on errant sponsors, ghost companies and fraudulent recruiting agents here and we do the same in India," Ravi told the Bahrain Tribune newspaper.

He also mentioned that his ministry has initiated action to amend the 1983 Emigration Act.

At the same time, he also said that a lot of the issues facing Indian labourers in the region had to do with the workers themselves as they circumvent laws that have been put in place by the Indian government for their safety.

"We have rules to ensure that workers' rights are protected by the Protectorate of Emigrants, that women are not allowed to take up employment as housemaids if they are aged under 30 and that workers come to the Gulf only with valid contracts," he told the newspaper.

"But workers often circumvent these laws by departing for their work destination from a third country to which they can travel without presenting the necessary papers, like Colombo in Sri Lanka.

From here they go to the Middle East and are exploited because their papers and contracts are not within the purview of Indian laws to protect migrant workers."

The case of the 1,050 Indian workers who were dismissed last year when Light Style Garments (LSG), a Bahraini company, closed down, also cropped up.

"The minister (Al Alawi) said that if the companies cannot pay the workers' dues, the Bahrain government would do so and he assured me that the LSG workers would be assisted by the ministry to regularise their work papers," Ravi said.

In the course of his daylong stay in Manama, Bahrain's capital, the minister also met members of the Indian community and representatives of Indian associations over a series of meetings.

After completing his engagements in the UAE, the minister will leave for Saudi Arabia on the last leg of his weeklong tour.

First Published: May 05, 2006 13:46 IST