Like many below average families in Kerala, Selestina thought that a ticket to the “Gulf” would bring about some difference to her family’s plight.

news Monday, January 05, 2015 - 05:30

Keerthi Prakasam| The News Minute| June 17, 2014| 2.00 pm IST

In Wayanad district of Kerala, Johnson is struggling to bring back his sister home. Forty two year old Selestina, who left for Kuwait in March 2014 was sold off by an agent to an Arab family for two lakh rupees, Johnson says. The family is desperate as they believe that she is being physically abused by the Arab family she works for. 

Back home her husband George Manuel works as a construction worker. Manuel’s income was not sufficient to run the family. Especially because of the three children they have, two mentally challenged and require special care, schooling and attention. When an agent Kochu Teresia, also a relative, offered her a job in Kuwait as a househelp, she took it readily.

Like many below average families in Kerala, Selestina thought that a ticket to the “Gulf” would bring about some difference to her family’s plight.

On Tuesday, Johhson met officials at the Kerala Chief Minister's office. The Chief Minister's office assured they family that relevant papers were being forwarded to Indian officials in Iraq, but declined to give any time frame within which Selestine can be rescued.

The CM office also instructed Johnson not to respond to any calls exhorting money.

Speaking to The News Minute her brother Johnson says that she did not go to Kuwait to make heaps of money, she went there to bring her family out of poverty. But their newly found hopes came crashing down when Selestina called her family and informed them that she has been “sold” to an Arab family by the agent and her driver.

Johnson says that she was cheated. “The agent told her that she herself would pick her up from the airport. But instead she sent a driver, who sold her off to the Arabi”, he says. “I only spoke twice to her after she reached, she does not have a phone to call us. She said that she is not allowed to sleep more than two hours a day, they give her a roti at night and she has to just subsist on that?”, Johnson is puzzled.

For this poor family from the high ranges, the whole issue is turning out to be emotionally draining. Two weeks ago, they filed a complaint in the police station, and to various ministries.

When The News Minute contacted the Sub-Inspector of the Kambalakadu police station, where Johnson filed a complaint two weeks ago, all he told us was that they have to contact the Embassy. When we asked him about the progress of the he said: “There is no progress, we have to contact the Embassy there. The investigation is still going on”.

Johnson also says that on June 5, the driver who “sold” Selestina contacted him from Kuwait. He told Johnson that she will return to India only if the family paid him one lakh rupees. Johnson immediately informed the police station about the incident, but that was it.

Clueless about what he should do next, Johnson says the family does not have money to bring Selestina back. “We did not receive any money to give back in the first place. All we want is our sister. Everyone is telling us to settle the issue by paying them two lakh rupees, but where do I get the money from, and whom do I contact? The woman who sent her there is not responding to us” he asks.

Tired of the wait Johnson is on his way to Thiruvananthapuram to try and meet the Chief Minister personally. “I will tell him that I want my sister back. I will tell him that we do not have any money, but I want my sister back”.

Selestina’s story is not an isolated one. Many women from Kerala go to Arab countries harnessing hopes of a better tomorrow. But what awaits them there is beyond their control.

Sadly, there is hardly any system or laws in place to keep track of their well-being once they are abroad. These women go through what could be classified as bonded labor and slavery according to Indian laws.

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