All of five, Rubina Sultana has as many holes in her heart as are her years. Each hospitalisation of the little one costs a fortune, and leaves her family gasping. Despite their meagre resources, her uncles did their best to bring her round when she fell ill recently. They, however, can’t replace her mother Ayesha Sultana who is helplessly languishing on Jeddah streets. Ayesha Sultana left for Riyadh to earn for daughter’s treatment, after entrusting Rubina to the care of grandmother Habibunnissa. Deserted by her drunkard husband eight months ago, this mother of three had no other go. However, the dreamland in Saudi Arabia had only nightmares in store.
“She is gone for four months, but not a penny has arrived since. She was not being paid at all despite working day and night. Now she ended up at Indian consulate in Jeddah,” says her sister’s husband Jahangir.
Ayesha left with the help of an agent from Mehdipatnam who promised to take care of her travel expenses. Nevertheless, she ended up paying Rs.8,000 in return for the promise of a job worth Rs.10,000 per month. From here, she was sent to one Khalid in Mumbai, then to Lucknow where she stayed for 18 days before boarding a plane to Riyadh.
“She was dumped at a consultant’s office in Riyadh along with six other women from Hyderabad. All were sent to different places to work as ‘khaddama’s (servant maids). One sheikh picked Ayesha too, but it was only after a month that she realised she would not get any payment. The sheikh had already paid to the consultancy,” narrated Mr. Jahangir.
Ayesha was also abused and beaten up by the sheikh, besides being underfed. Unable to put up with the torture anymore, she begged to be sent back to her ailing child. The sheikh relented only so far in sending her back to the agency where Ayesha met another woman Fatima from Hyderabad. Both the women demanded that they be paid in full and sent back to Hyderabad.
“They did not pay any heed, and sent both the women to another customer in Mecca where they worked for a few more months. Upon knowing their plight over phone, we approached an NRI in Saudi who took them to the Indian Consulate in Jeddah,” related Mr. Jahangir.
However, their troubles are far from over. Passports of the two women were confiscated by the agency, rendering them as “illegal immigrants”.
“They say we will first be sent to jail before deportation. Even to expedite this process, we will have to shell out Rs.20,000. Where shall we get so much money?” rues Ayesha who spoke over phone from Jeddah. Irfan, the NRI who rescued them fumes over the “apathetic attitude” of the Indian Consulate.
“Ten Indian women await their repatriation near the Consulate. They are pitilessly left on roads, whether rain or shine. It is a shameful situation,” he says. Repatriation is not easy, as it needs the employer’s permission. And the Consulate is not very eager to consult the employer, he alleges.