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Malayalees in slavery

Thanks to globalization of labor, many Malayalees work in the Islamic countries in the Middle East. Yale Global has an article on these people, who are the “invisible foot soldiers of globalization”

Blue-collar Indian workers in the UAE, including Dubai, amount to an exploited underclass with no rights, no unions, and no stake in country’s burgeoning wealth, say human rights groups. In neighboring Saudi Arabia, a recent Human Rights Watch report says many of the country’s more than one million Indian migrants live in “conditions resembling slavery.” The document highlights the widespread practice of forced, around-the-clock confinement of Indian maids, often in unsafe conditions. And a US State Department report on worldwide human trafficking faults the UAE and other Gulf states for commonplace labor abuses like withholding pay and passports.

Employers usually confiscate passports and residence permits when workers arrive at Dubai International Airport, making it virtually impossible for laborers to seek better jobs or quit and go home. Migrants typically cannot obtain exit visas without the approval of their sponsor or employer. The story of these faceless men and women, who live in labor camps and seedy apartments, is gaining attention in the usually self-censored UAE press, which now regularly reports on worker protests over delayed pay and substandard living conditions. [Dubai’s Kerala Connection]

Malayalees may be able to live without passports, but without unions and the rights to raise slogans, we are like President Bush on a bicycle. It is sad that Malayalees who raise slogans even in front of corpses, have to live like slaves away from their families.

Related Links: Globalization of ideas, Hinduism in Saudi Arabia

8 Responses to Malayalees in slavery

  1. Ramya July 13, 2005 at 3:45 pm #

    That’s really ironic..like the saying goes – At home you are a tiger, and a rat elsewhere!

  2. Vidushi July 13, 2005 at 8:44 pm #

    I actually lived in the Middle East for 12 years. Most of the labourers are non-Muslim Indians ( usually malayalees) from small villages and towns. I know of many incidents when these men lost their lives due to unsafe working/living conditions and all their hard earned money went to the local govt as they follow the Shari’a law. According to that unless you sign some papers specifically stating who the beneficiaries after your death would be PLUS include them in your account ( joint account), ALL your assets are automatically transferred to the govt and your family cannot contest that.
    The govt’s smartness is that it doesnt make these rules known and for someone from a country like India where these rules are unheard of, to even forsee such situations is very difficult.

  3. P@L July 14, 2005 at 5:25 am #

    This, in my opinion, is not a Malayalee phenomenon, although many of these people happen to be malayalees. Singapore, is another example, and I would assume the same in Malaysia and many such countries. Many of these are low-skilled (or manual) labourers and the contractors often confiscate their passports, and enable them to stay as illegal immigrants in many cases(after visa expiry) in return for low-wage work….The government, at least in countries such as Singapore are aware of such illegal arrangements, and yet ignore it as far it serves the economy. So, you might end up seeing a South Asian worker on road construction sites or other such jobs, often living in shipping container-sized rooms.

    On the other hand, most of these people haven’t come there to enjoy life in a foreign country, instead to provide a better life for their family back home and hence, such hardships aren’t considered worthy enough of strikes.

    But, it is heartening to see Kerala government’s recent policies and initiatives in providing them with most possible comforts.

    By the way, in case you aren’t aware of one such effort, please check

    http://www.norka.gov.in

    which is applicable to all NRKs….

  4. Vikrant July 15, 2005 at 8:37 am #

    I was wondering if you knew about the controversy surrounding Lord Ayappa temples in Sabrimala and Guruvayoor, since I haven’t seen a coverage of that in your blog.

  5. JK July 15, 2005 at 1:39 pm #

    Vikrant, haven’t been following those news items. If you have any links, please send them.

  6. Vikrant July 15, 2005 at 3:35 pm #

    I’ll have to look them up again but here is one for starters : http://www.hindu.com/2005/06/21/stories/2005062111710900.htm

  7. Vikrant July 15, 2005 at 3:44 pm #

    Also, I have been hearing this of late: a big proportion of the revenue generated by temples, such as the Ayyappa temples in Sabarimala and Guruvayoor, is channeled towards non-Hindu purposes unlike the system followed in Churches and mosques. It is said this is due to non-Hindu authorities. I am confused and uncertain about this. Does anyone have further information on this?

  8. Surya July 28, 2005 at 12:28 pm #

    I agree with P@L that this is not just a Malayalee phenomenon. Immigrant blue-collar workers face bad working conditions in many parts of the world.

    But the important thing is that these workers, in most cases, do have the choice to leave. But they choose to stay because they are better off financially or are helping to make lives better for their families at home. Not that I am supporting it in anyway, but just that branding it slavery might be a tad bit too much – and it devalues the word slavery itself.

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