THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: A J. Kumar, an engineering graduate hailing from Kollam, took up an engineering job in Dubai with a decent salary about a year ago. But he is now finding it difficult to eke out a living as his employer is not paying the promised salary.
This is nothing new as there are hundreds like him going through worse conditions owing to violation of job contract by foreign employers.
“I am now taking up some additional work during the night for another firm, informally and illegally, to make ends meet here. Though some of my friends advised me to approach the embassy, I don't want to make my employer hostile,” said Mr Kumar.
Many like Mr Kumar do not seek legal remedy for fear of retaliation from the foreign employer, which reflects the absence of a strong legal support system for the expatriates in foreign countries.
Though there are legal wings in Indian embassies and consulates, a major chunk of the expatriates, especially those in the low-profile job categories who are vulnerable to job cheating, are ignorant of such options.
State government agencies like NORKA-Roots for welfare of pravasis also have limitations in helping out victims of job contract violations in foreign countries.
Though the associations of pravasis in foreign countries offer a helping hand to those who are in dire straits in their countries, they too have restrictions owing to the enormity of the issue.
“We keep on getting complaints of NRKs being denied the promised job as well as salary by foreign employer. But the only option available with us is to either take up the matter with the embassy concerned or seek the service of recognised associations of pravasis, which is an informal way,” said NORKA Roots chief executive officer R.S. Kannan.
He also added that NORKA-Roots, being a government agency, have many restrictions in opening own facilities in foreign countries to offer legal aid to Malayalis.
Since in most cases the victims are offered proper job documents the emigration authorities could not plug this menace. “If one turns up with valid job documents we cannot prevent him or her from travelling.
In case of recruitment by recognised recruiting agencies, the agency could be held liable to compensate the employee in case of violation of job contract by the foreign employer,” said Protector of Emigrants in Thiruvananthapuram A. Pradeed. He also added that there were isolated incidents of employees giving fake complaints of harassments by foreign employers.
Over these years, there had been strong demand from various quarters to strengthen the legal support mechanisms in foreign countries. But the successive governments at the Centre had made little efforts towards this direction.
“NORKA and the ministry of overseas Indians affairs should intervene in labour violations suffered by pravasis in foreign countries. But no effective intervention is happening,” said Pravasi Bandhu Welfare Trust chairman K.V. Shamsudheen.
He also alleged that political clout of the employers was one reason for this. “Most of labour supply companies are main labour violators. They will not pay the workers even half the salary they are collecting. But owing to the political clout of such firms, little action could be taken by the law enforcement agencies. If one Malayali suffe-rs in a foreign country the-re will be another Malay-ali behind it,” he said.
The Pravasi Bharatiya Bhima Yojana insurance coverage for emigrants offer legal aid of only Rs 30,000 which is inadequate, sources in the sector point out.
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