Ten Central Trade Unions have questioned the Centre’s proposed move to send about one lakh Indian construction workers to Israel to replace Palestinian nationals working there. They alleged that the Union government is playing a despicable role in supporting the Israeli plans to throw out Palestinian workers and retaliation for the Hamas attack is only an excuse. Diplomatic sources, however, said the request from Israel’s construction industry has been discussed, but there is no agreement yet.
When asked about the proposal, Ministry of External Affairs Spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said the government was not aware of any specific request, but that India has been discussing a mobility and migration agreement with Israel to facilitate and protect Indian workers in the construction and caregiver fields.
“With Israel, there are already a number of Indian workers employed there, especially in the caregiver sector. Since, I think, 2022, we have been discussing a bilateral framework in the construction and caregiver sectors, but this is a long-term initiative and I am not aware of any specific requests or numbers that have been floating around, “ Mr. Bagchi said at the MEAs weekly press conference on Thursday.
The trade unions said both countries signed an agreement in May 2023 during the visit of the Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen to send 42,000 Indian workers to Israel, out of which 34,000 were to be brought into the construction industry, to replace the Palestinian workers.
Citing that about 1.3 lakh Palestinians were employed in the construction sector in Israel, the trade unions said nothing could be more immoral and disastrous for India than “exporting” workers to Israel. “Such step will amount to complicity on India’s part with Israel’s ongoing genocidal war against Palestinians and will naturally have adverse implications for Indian workers in the entire region,” the joint statement added.
The Central Trade Unions (CTUs) expressed solidarity with Palestinian workers and rejected the disastrous idea of sending workers. “Let’s resolve that we will not work to replace Palestinian workers in Israel. India and Indian workers should boycott Israeli products. Indian workers, as their counterparts in some western countries, should refuse to handle the Israeli cargo,” the CTUs said and demanded that the agreement with Israel to export Indian workers be scrapped immediately.