Thousands of Indian workers left on roads as Kuwait evacuates dilapidated buildings : The Tribune India

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Thousands of Indian workers left on roads as Kuwait evacuates dilapidated buildings

Thousands of Indian workers left on roads as Kuwait evacuates dilapidated buildings

The building where 49 died.



Tribune News Service

Sumedha Sharma

Gurugram, June 23

Amid Kuwait media reports of a massive crackdown on dilapidated and overcrowded buildings, thousands of Indian workers have been rendered homeless in the West Asian nation.

Punjab, Haryana men fear deportation

  • Nearly 12,000 workers from Rajasthan, Kerala and Andhra have approached state governments for help
  • However, over 50,000 workers from Punjab and Haryana in Kuwait’s Mangaf aren’t reaching out to authorities out of fear of deportation
  • “I and around 100 others from Punjab came here with great difficulty and can’t risk getting caught,” said a worker from Bathinda who doesn’t have valid travel documents

The crackdown comes in the wake of the Mangaf building fire on June 12 which claimed the lives of 49 Indian workers. The Kuwaiti authorities are now getting all unsafe buildings evacuated and penalising the owners of overcrowded properties.

With thousands of Indians residing in these buildings, the Indian Embassy in Kuwait with the assistance of local authorities has started setting up shelters for these workers, many of whom have also approached their respective state governments in India for help.

Speaking to The Tribune, a senior MEA official said, “The Kuwaiti authorities are reinforcing laws to make accommodations safe. We are closely working with them and setting up shelters for the affected Indians. During this course, we have come across many cases of workers who didn’t have the documentation required to stay in country. Wherever manageable, we are working on their rehabilitation but those without proper documents will face deportation.”

Sources said 400 workers, a majority of them from Rajasthan, face deportation due to reasons such as visa expiry and lack of documents. Nearly 5,000 workers from Rajasthan and 7,000 from Kerala and Andhra Pradesh have approached their state governments and NGOs for assistance.

Following the devastating fire in Mangaf on June 12, the Kuwaiti authorities had ordered evacuation of dilapidated buildings. The power supply to these overcrowded buildings, flouting housing norms, is reportedly being snapped. A majority of these buildings were inhabited by Indian workers, who are now being forced to sleep on roads.

Meanwhile, workers are claiming that they have been barred from sharing videos on social media and are being threatened with arrests by their agents. They turned to the Indian Embassy for alternative accommodation as after the fire, rents in the area trebled.

While there are over 50,000 workers from Punjab and Haryana in the Mangaf area, they are not reaching out to authorities for help. “I along with around 100 men from Punjab came here with great difficulty and can’t risk getting caught and deported. Our recruitment agent has warned us against putting out any video or speaking to anybody. We send money home, but have now been evicted from our “unsafe” building. We are paying a store owner to sleep in his porch at night,” said Dayal Singh (name changed) from Bathinda.

“It’s like living in slums in India. Eight of us lived together in a room to cut expenditure and send money home. We are not educated but somehow managed to get here through agents. My building owner has been fined for overcrowding. We are now on the streets and looking for accommodation,” said Surjit, a carpenter from Fatehabad in Haryana.

“The electricity supply to our building was cut without notice. Homeless, we are now using sleeping bags on roadsides. With the high demand for accommodation, the rentals have hiked and are unaffordable,” said Bakhtawar Meena from Bainswara.

Meena’s wife here has sold off her jewellery to arrange for her husband’s stay in Kuwait. She claims that he cannot go to work leaving his belongings on the street.

The Rajasthan government is in touch with the MEA over the issue. Kuwait has a population of nearly 42 lakh, of which 21% (10 lakh) are Indians, comprising 30% of the workforce. Indian carpenters, masons, electricians, construction labourers, factory and domestic workers and food delivery agents constitute nearly a fifth of Kuwait’s workforce.

For years, the illegal conversion of property spaces has been a pervasive issue in Kuwait. Basement parking areas have been transformed into warehouses, while ground-floor open spaces have been converted into housing units and shops, all in the pursuit of additional income.

Kuwait’s Deputy Prime Minister is personally leading the drive to check the buildings housing foreign workers.

About The Author

The Tribune News Service brings you the latest news, analysis and insights from the region, India and around the world. Follow the Tribune News Service for a wide-ranging coverage of events as they unfold, with perspective and clarity.

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