NEW DELHI: Durlal Singh sold his farmland to secure a ticket to Qatar in 2015. Three years on, the 35-year old carpenter from the Barnala district of the north Indian state of Punjab, regrets that choice.
“Since January, I have not received payment from the construction company. I have been working there for the last three years. It’s the worst crisis I have faced in my life,” Singh told Arab News from his labor camp in Qatar. “There have been only assurances and nothing else. I have stopped sending money back home because I am earning hardly anything. But I am managing somehow to survive and hoping that things will improve.”
Singh went on to describe his “sub-human” situation.
“Electricity is available only during the daytime,” he explained. “We struggle to get water and other basic amenities. My situation will not improve until I get a regular job and the perks and payments that are overdue to me and other workers.”
Singh said the Indian Embassy in Qatar had “assured every help” but that its words were “a formality” and he had received little “genuine support.”
Surinder Singh, who comes from the Jalandhar district in Punjab, is equally distraught. The 60-year-old mechanic has been in Qatar for over 15 years, and said he has never faced the kind of “humiliation” that he now faces.
“At this stage in life, working as a part-time mechanic does not fetch you much money and you cannot earn enough to send money back home,” he said.
For the past five months, Singh claimed, he has not received his agreed salary from the construction company he works for. His earnings, currently, are dependent on the number of days he is given work.
“If you don’t have a regular contract in the company, you are not earning good money and you are not getting any perks,” he said. “Thanks to some local charities run by expatriates, I am managing to eat and survive. But if you see the living conditions, it is really miserable. I hope the situation improves as has been promised by the authorities here.”
The story of Uppu Tripuati from the southern Indian state of Telangana is similarly depressing. Last year, Tripuati was jailed for five months. He was arrested because the company where he worked as a mechanic had failed to properly implement legally required safety measures.
“I ended up spending five months in jail through no fault of my own,” the 34-year-old said. “My company refused to bail me out and it’s only because of the efforts of the Indian community that I managed to get some money together so I could be released.”
Getting out of jail was not the end of Tripuati’s troubles however. Since his release, he said, “Life has not been smooth. The financial burden has gone up and job uncertainty has increased. My wife complains that I am not sending her money.”
Rema George, a 42-year-old social worker and political activist, visited Qatar last month. She went there after hearing about the plight of workers from the southern Indian state of Kerala, her home.
“I had heard that more than 1,200 people had lost their jobs and had not been paid for many months,” she said. “To get a sense of the situation I went to Qatar. I was not officially allowed to visit the labor camps. I was pursued wherever I went and it was tough to meet the workers inside their homes. However, I managed to (do that) and hear their grievances first hand.”
George said she had written a letter to the Indian Embassy in Qatar “listing all the problems confronting the workers there and they agreed to look into the matter.”
“In Qatar, there are more than 50 labor camps and many of them don’t have basic amenities. These have cropped up after (it) won the bid to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Many laborers are being kept illegally in the camps despite their visas having expired,” George claimed.