India sending unemployed poor to Israel: Arundhati Roy

The Booker Prize winner calls for immediate and urgent action to help civilians trapped in Gaza; Indians for Palestine wants government to take a more explicit position on the conflict

March 07, 2024 10:10 pm | Updated 10:42 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Workers stand in a queue to submit registration forms as they seek employment in Israel during a recruitment drive at the Industrial Training Institute in Lucknow on January 25, 2024.

Workers stand in a queue to submit registration forms as they seek employment in Israel during a recruitment drive at the Industrial Training Institute in Lucknow on January 25, 2024. | Photo Credit: AFP

The unemployed poor of India are being sent to Israel to fill up the vacancies created by Palestinians leaving jobs due to the ongoing Israel-Palestinian conflict, noted writer and activist Arundhati Roy has stated. A message from Ms. Roy was read at an event by Indians for Palestine on March 7 at the Press Club of India where the organisers said that more than 30,000 Palestinians have died so far under Israeli attacks and called for “immediate and urgent action” to help civilians trapped in Gaza.

“And now, while the U.S. exports what it has in abundant surplus — weapons and money to aid Israel’s genocide — India too is exporting what our country has in abundant surplus: the unemployed poor to replace the Palestinian workers (in Israel),” a written statement from Ms. Roy conveyed. The statement was read by Kavita Srivastava, who led the event on behalf of Indians for Palestine.

Ms. Roy’s statement further drew from the ‘never again’ slogan that reminds the world about the tragedy of the Jewish Holocaust in Nazi Germany and said, “The ‘never’ has been excised from the powerful slogan ‘never again’ and we are left only with ‘again’.”

The Booker Prize winner’s comments came a day after an Indian from Kerala was killed in an anti-tank rocket attack in Margaliot in northern Israel near the Lebanese border that the Israeli embassy blamed on Hezbollah. The same incident also left two other Indians injured.

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In May 2023, India entered into an agreement with Israel to send around 42,000 workers. Since the start of the conflict on October 7, various Israeli entities have been reaching out to India, seeking a greater number of workers to fill up vacancies left in the wake of the breakdown of the economic production chain that allowed thousands of Palestinians to work in Israeli farms and factories.

Accordingly, over the past few weeks, recruitment centres were opened in Haryana and Uttar Pradesh to hire Indians. The Government of India, however, has maintained a studied silence, hinting that some citizens might have travelled to Israel in a “private capacity”. Since October 2023, the Ministry of External Affairs as well as the Embassy of Israel in Tel Aviv have maintained an advisory for Indians to stay in safe locations in Israel. This was further enhanced after Tuesday’s incident, with an appeal to Indians in the northern and southern parts of Israel to stay safe.

In the backdrop of the Israeli campaign in Gaza, Indians for Palestine have been campaigning for an end to the crisis and calling upon India to join other countries that have taken a more explicitly critical position regarding Israel. “Yesterday, we learnt that one Indian worker was killed and two were injured, at a farm in Israel, amidst the hostilities. India’s embassy in Israel issued an advisory urging Indians to move to safer areas in Israel. The Government of India is simultaneously continuing to encourage workers to go to Israel,” said the organisation in a statement.

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