Not law, nor duty: On ‘safe military jobs’ and Indians in war zones

Indians are being lured into fighting another country’s war 

March 11, 2024 12:20 am | Updated 12:58 am IST

The death of a second Indian in the Russia-Ukraine conflict, which the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) confirmed, is proof of the toll the situation is taking on Indians who have been lured into working with the Russian military. The story of dozens of Indians stuck at the frontlines of the war — it was broken in a series of reports by The Hindu — prompted government agencies to crack down on recruiters in India this week, with the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) raiding visa recruiters across India and filing cases against them for human trafficking and for duping people into travelling to Russia where they were coerced into dangerous jobs. Many of them were duped by online video advertisements that promised “safe jobs” with the military far from the frontlines, even indicating more lucrative jobs in the neighbouring European Schengen States. The MEA has now issued advisories and statements with appeals not to be “swayed” by such offers. After videos emerged of Indians stationed in areas seeing live action along the front between Russia and Ukraine in recently occupied territories, the government and India’s Embassy in Moscow also said they are working with the Russian Army for early discharges to bring the Indians home.

The government’s actions are much delayed and cold comfort to the families of the two men, from Surat and from Hyderabad, whose bodies are yet to be repatriated. Others have been seriously injured. What is most surprising is that the government has only spoken about the dangers of the Russian offers for military jobs now, when it is clear that the online ads and recruitments have been taking place for months. The government seems to have been made aware of the problem only after a Member of Parliament from Hyderabad wrote to the MEA in January, asking for assistance in bringing some of his constituents back. Since then, officials have given vague accounts of the numbers of those (“about 20”) who may have already travelled to danger zones. Now, after the CBI raids, they have identified at least 35 men. Accounts from those in Russia put the number at well over 100. The government needs to explain why it has not been able to make the case to bring back all the men more forcefully with the Russian authorities, despite good relations with Moscow. It has also dodged questions on why it has simultaneously green-lighted a massive recruitment drive to Israel, another conflict zone. A more structured, transparent and humane approach will be required to make it clear, domestically, and to partners abroad, that Indian lives matter. The priority is to bring them home safely, but also to ensure that others are not put in harm’s way, driven by the difficult economic situation back home.

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