She was the only breadwinner of the family.

Foul play TN domestic help dies in Saudi Arabia body sent home 15 months later
news Allegations Friday, November 18, 2016 - 15:01

A 47-year-old woman from Tamil Nadu went to Saudi Arabia in February hoping to give a better life to her children. However, on Thursday, her dead body reached Chennai Airport. The post-mortem report states that it is a case of suicide but the family suspects foul play.

Poongavanam Nagarajan, the deceased, hails from Tiruvannamalai district and went to Saudi Arabia on February 20, 2016. “She went to Saudi Arabia wanting to give her children better education and make their lives better,” said Raghavendra (37), Poongavanam’s brother.

Poongavanam is survived by two children, a daughter who is 18-years-old and a son who is 13-years-old. She was the only breadwinner of the family.  

From the start of her employment, her brother says, she'd always complain about physical abuse by the owners. “She was working for more than 18 hours a day and they used to beat her up. Whenever she called her family, she used to be crying,” he said.

On September 4, 2016, she had called her daughter and was crying and asking for help. “My niece also heard people shouting at the back (background) and after few minutes, the call was cut,” said Raghavendra.

A day later, an activist who works with migrant labourers in Saudi Arabia, Krishnan, informed the family that Poongavanam had died.

However, though the medical reports state that the woman had committed suicide, the family alleges that she was killed by the sponsors for whom she was working. 

Moreover, her brother said that she was not given proper salary. “She used to be given Rs. 10,000 one month and Rs 17,000 the next month. One day, she wanted to transfer the money and she asked for some secret code from the owner, they refused to give it to her, which led to an argument,” he said.

The family is unclear about what the "secret code" was for.

Raghavendra said that they suspect that Poongavanam was killed by her employers. Following her death, her family tried to file a complaint at a police station in Tiruvannamalai but the police did not take the complaint as the family does not know the employment agent involved in the case.

After this, the National Domestic Workers' Movement (NDWM) in Chennai began helping the family in the case. “It took one-and-a-half months for the body to be brought to India because of all the procedures in Saudi Arabia,” said Arul Anthony, programme coordinator of NDWM. 

He added that they tried contacting the Indian embassy in Saudi Arabia. “The embassy only responded by saying that ‘your request is being processed’ and only because of the help of the activist, the body has reached India,” he said.

Show us some love and support our journalism by becoming a TNM Member - Click here.