They had to leave with nothing but the clothes on their backs

For conducting a puja Indians shunted out of Kuwait await salaries and belongingsFrom left, Ashok Salian and Santhosh Rai with minister Sushma Swaraj and Nalin Kumar Kateel
news Migrant Workers Tuesday, December 08, 2015 - 19:12

Eleven people who were deported from Kuwait last month face an uncertain future, as dues running into lakhs of rupees owed to them by their employers, have not been settled and they do not know if they can return.

On November 13, eleven people, all from Dakshina Kannada district were deported with nothing but their passports and the clothes on their backs.

“We were given no reason,” Yadav Sanil told The News Minute, adding that the only cause they could think of for their deportation was that they had all participated in a Satyanarayana puja. “Our company has no problem with us.”

On October 16, the Navachetana Welfare Association, Kuwait, had organized its annual Satyanarayana puja in a hall owned by a Malayali in Mangab, near Kuwait city. The association was registered with the Indian Embassy in Kuwait in 2014. Around 150 people of the association, including women and children had attended the puja according to a release from the association.

Ten days later, Yadav says he got a call from his company, where he works in the catering department, to come early the next day. “They told me to come at 7 am for a personal medical (exam). But there is no such thing as a personal medical (exam). I got a doubt, so I called my wife and told her about this.”

Around 10 am on October 26, Kuwaiti government officials came, picked up his passport and took him to an unknown location. “I don’t know where we were, the vehicles have black glass, so we can’t see anything,” Yadav said.

He later found out that one by one, the 11 of them had been picked up. For the next nine days, he says he and others were kept in separate rooms where they were given three meals a day and a bed to sleep on. “We were told nothing.”

After that, he says they were taken to what is locally known as “Safar Jail”. From there, he could call his wife Pushpa who lives in their house in Elinje village in Dakshina Kannada district. For the next seven days, they were kept there, and on November 13, he and eight others were put on a flight to Mumbai. The other two were deported two days later.

Asked about their belongings, he said that they had to leave behind everything they owned. More importantly, they had no money when they were sent back. Yadav says that members of the Tulu Koota and Bunt Sangha in Kuwait who had learned of their plight contacted hotel owners in Mumbai, who arranged to meet them at the airport. They were then given accommodation and food, money and train tickets back to Mangaluru.

Financial dues

“My service money is there. I have worked in the same company for 14 years. We have to go back within six months of leaving the country, otherwise our visa will expire. They took our fingerprints at the airport (in Kuwait), so we don’t know if we can return,” Yadav says.

The “service” money is equivalent to the annual bonus in India. Workers in Kuwait have no job security or benefits except for the “service” money which is one month’s salary for every year that they have worked at a company.

Yadav says that he is owed around Rs 3 lakh. Five others also worked in the same company he did, and each of them has put in at least 10 years at the firm. “We would like to return and work, but if not, they should at least return the money.”

Santhosh Rai too is owed the “service” money. He has worked two-and-a-half years at his company and says the amount runs up to around Rs 4 lakh. He too is unsure if he can return either to Kuwait or even any of the Gulf Cooperation Council countries because they do not know what the charges against them are, if any.

He says that Ashok Salian, president of the Navachetana association, had recently bought a new car. “It’s lying on the road,” Santhosh says.

He says that they met Minister for External Affairs Sushma Swaraj along with Dakshina Kannada MP Nalin Kumar Kateel. The minister has assured them of help, he added.

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