When this year’s Pravasi Mitra Awards were announced, there was only one woman on the list — 44-year-old Shanti Priya who has been helping Indian emigrants in Malaysia for the last 18 years.
Hyderabad-based Shanti is brimming with joy as her work has been recognised by the Migrants Right Council after 18 years. “I came to Malaysia in 1998 looking for a job. Later, I started Vetarasoft Applications Sdn. Bhd., a research and development company, which offers job to Indians in Malaysia. I also started a restaurant.”
She put up a tough fight facing the odds in a foreign country where you are a total stranger. “We Indians are alien there. There are no funds to back us; the banks won’t give you any loan unless you know someone.”
Interestingly, Indians make up to seven per cent of the population in Malaysia. “Hundreds of people are trapped inside camps after being caught uninformed, without their passports or visa. In many cases, passports of these helpless persons are seized by employers. There are many who have been waiting for years for help. The Indian Government should sign a pact or make a deal to ensure the safety of Indians in Malaysia,” she says.
“There are many who complain that their employer doesn’t pay them and even harass them a lot if they say they would quit. Many come here after paying hefty sums to their agents for the job. There is only the Indian High Commission where they could turn for help, but how many can they help,” she asks.
She adds, “Recently, a software engineer was put behind bars. I hired an advocate to fight for him. He was then released and sent back to India. I always offer to help any Indian in trouble.”
Shanti requests for a power from the government, through which she could represent India and stand for the Indians who are facing various problems in Malaysia.
Last year, she met chief minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao in Malaysia and later, with others, created a group, Malaysia Telangana Association.
Shanti, who recently adopted a girl and will be sponsoring her education, plans to move back to Hyderabad and start an NGO that will help educate girls. “I also plan to start a small-scale industry to provide employment to women. I have read about Sunitha Krishnan and her NGO Prajwala; she is my inspiration. I want to start an NGO that supports the education of girl child with my own money. Charity is what drives me and I want to do as much as I can for Indians, especially women.”