Desperate Indian workers’ suicides in dictatorial Bahrain

This video says about itself:

The ILO’s Guy Ryder speaks to Al Jazeera about the mass sackings of workers in Bahrain following a government crackdown on pro-democracy protests.

From the International Business Times:

26 Indian Workers Commit Suicide In Bahrain, Nass Corp. Under Fire

Wage disputes and a travel ban have trapped many workers in the Gulf state.

By Nish Amarnath

July 11, 2012 4:07 PM EDT

Pasupathi Mariappan, 33, originally from Tamil Nadu in South India, became the twenty-sixth Indian expat to commit suicide in Bahrain this year. The blacksmith who worked at Manama-based construction giant Nass Contracting Company, a subsidiary of the Nass Corporation, a wealthy Bahraini company, was found by police three days after he hung himself with a rope from a palm tree in a public garden in Hamad town last month.

“He (Mariappan) was one of many workers stranded in Bahrain after the Nass Group imposed a travel ban on them in 2006,” an Indian Embassy spokesman said.

More than 100 Indian laborers are trapped in the clutches of Bahrain over a wage dispute with Nass Corporation. The workers say that they had to take extra jobs to make ends meet because they were paid just BHD 45 ($119) every month rather than the promised BHD 100 ($265). 128 Nass workers complained to the Indian Embassy about the Abdullah Nass Construction Company, which lodged a grievance against them years ago, for not showing up at work.

A court ordered Nass employees to pay a fine ranging from BHD 400 ($1,061) to BHD 600 ($1,591) for allegedly heaping losses on the firm by violating their contracts. Disgruntled and broke, many workers left the company long before they realized they were impeded by a travel ban. They found they were stuck in Bahrain only in 2010, when they attempted to leave during an amnesty for illegal workers.

Unable to work or leave, some workers have been languishing in pain, poverty and debt. Killing themselves is the only option when they find they have no money to support their families in India and no hope of escape from the fetters of their captivity.

Nass Corporation has been notorious for hiring scores of semi-skilled and unskilled Indian workers by transferring them illegally with promises of visa sponsorship — a pledge that leaves its workers severely indebted. The company earned a net profit of $5.11 million in the first quarter of 2012 — a 6.1 percent jump from the year before.

Nass Contracting recently joined hands with a Scottish company, Braemar Golf, to introduce golf to rich Bahraini residents. Nass, which slapped its travel ban to prevent Indian workers from returning home, has turned a deaf ear to the Indian Embassy’s request to reverse its policy. The company is now facing pressures from lobbyists and human rights groups that are threatening to petition its business partner Braemar to consider the plight of Indian workers in Bahrain and back out of its agreement.

Bahrain remains a home to more than 350,000 Indians. International human rights organizations say that 70 percent of them work in deplorable conditions for wealthy Bahraini companies like Nass that abuse, underpay and impose travel bans on their staff.

In recent years, travel bans on foreign workers in Bahrain have become an increasingly common feature of exploitation under the shield of Bahrain’s Kalafa system, a scheme that encourages slave trade. Often companies pay their employees pittance or take a massive cut from their wages for sponsoring their work visas. When workers attempt to leave or find new jobs, these companies approach the courts with claims of contract violations — a move that wins them the right to forbid workers from leaving.

The case of the travel ban on workers is yet to be resolved. Some workers have left the country. However, most of them remain shackled to Bahrain, unable to leave until the case is resolved, the Indian embassy told media groups. The Indian Embassy earlier forwarded the case to a law firm in a bid to mediate between the company and its workers to resolve the dispute. However, it remains unclear how many individual claims will be settled.

Update: “Goodwill gesture” by Bahraini firm sets Indian laborers free: here.

Bahrain urged to allow peaceful protest | Amnesty International: here.

Bahrain: Prominent Human Rights Defender Nabeel Rajab Imprisoned for 3 Months for Tweet: here.

Bahrain Feature: The “Security” Web — The Kingdom Talks with Saudi Arabia, Britain, and the US: here.

11 thoughts on “Desperate Indian workers’ suicides in dictatorial Bahrain

  1. Relief for Indian workers stuck in Bahrain

    J Sam Daniel Stalin | Updated: July 18, 2012 11:07 IST

    Chennai: This news should come as a fresh lease of life for more than a hundred Indian migrant workers presently trapped in Bahrain due to a travel ban. Nass Contracting, the company that had secured a legal ban on their travel has agreed to withdraw all court cases pending against what it calls “run-away workers”.

    A recent case of suicide by Pasupathi Mariappan, a blacksmith from Tamil Nadu triggered outrage among immigrant employees from south Asian countries. A few weeks ago he hanged himself to death at a public park in Bahrain after he was allegedly barred from returning to his home country.

    Mr Mariappan was reportedly the 26th immigrant worker to kill himself in Bahrain for the same reason.

    His family alleges “workers were not paid what was promised and they were left with nothing to send home”.

    When the disgruntled employees chose to join other companies, Nass obtained a court order that prevented them from travelling abroad, citing violation of contract. The workers had to pay a fine as well. This literally trapped them in Bahrain for several years. Most of the workers learnt about the court order only when they were stopped at the airport.

    The fight for the release of the remaining hundred odd workers was initiated by Pasupathi’s brother Shankar, a government employee in Tamil Nadu. He started an online petition which drew support from more than twenty thousand people.

    Armed with this response, Avaaz, a global campaign network took the battle to Naas’ potential business partner in the UK. And it worked.

    The initially non-cooperative Naas started talks with the Indian Embassy and decide to drop cases against employees who have not reported for work. However, Nass denies that it underpaid workers. The company claims to follow a “transparent system that clearly reveals wages payable for workers”. It says these workers in question “were absconding from work without notice” but still the company would “as a matter of goodwill gesture…withdraw all cases against run-away workers”.

    It was not immediately clear how long would it take for the legal process to be completed, before the Indian workers to return home.

    Activists say this could just be the tip of the iceberg. Close to four lakh Indians work in Bahrain. Many workers are forced to surrender passports. They estimate hundreds of Indian workers could still be trapped with other employers. The Indian government, they say has to initiate steps to identify and bring home such silent sufferers, before it’s too late.


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  3. Manpower human trafficking case falls

    US: A federal judge dismissed human trafficking charges against executives and business associates of recruitment firm Global Horizons Manpower at the weekend, even after three of the eight defendants pleaded guilty.

    The company had been accused of exploiting 600 farm labourers from Thailand by putting them into debt, confiscating their passports and threatening to deport them.

    But an investigation found the prosecution wouldn’t be able to prove the charges.

    Melissa Vincenty, who represents more than 50 of the farm workers, said her clients would be disappointed not to testify in court.


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  8. CHENNAI: A pregnant woman from Tamil Nadu allegedly committed suicide in Bahrain while recording her last moments on a web camera, media reports said. Seetha Laxmi (28), from Coimbatore, was found hanging at her apartment in Manama, the capital of Bahrain, on Monday. …

    The number of suicide cases among Indians living in gulf countries is on the rise, especially in the UAE, statistics show. Financial problems, high inflation and pressure from families back home are driving a number of them to kill themselves, experts said. According to a Dubai police report, 70% of those committed suicide in 2012 were Indians.


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