TAMIL NADU

Woeful tales from women migrant workers

Fight for rights: Tamil Nadu Planning Commission member R. Srinivasan releasing campaign material for awareness about the plight of migrant women domestic workers in Chennai on Saturday.

Fight for rights: Tamil Nadu Planning Commission member R. Srinivasan releasing campaign material for awareness about the plight of migrant women domestic workers in Chennai on Saturday.   | Photo Credit: — Photo: S. Thanthoni

Staff Reporter

They share their bitter experiences of exploitation abroad at event



Arunodaya has compiled a tool-kit to create awareness

Jordan, Syria emerging as newer markets for labour



CHENNAI: Five months back, Saji Pansley returned empty-handed from Jordan after a two-and-half year stint as a domestic worker. She went there for work after an ‘agent’ lured her with “lucrative job opportunities”. Her village, Periyadalai in Tuticorin, had been ravaged by the tsunami and she was desperate for money.

Soon after her migration, Saji’s agent, who went along with her, took her passport away. She became a maid for a family which extracted a lot of work and “slapped her every time she demanded her pay”. “They never allowed me to communicate with my family in India and locked me up in a dark room after I finished the day’s work,” she said.

Saji was one of the women who shared their bitter experiences of migrating aboard for domestic work at an event organised in the city by non-governmental organisation Arunodaya on Saturday. Saji said she managed to convince her employers to send her home after days of crying and pleading. “They bought me a ticket to India and dropped me to the airport,” she said.

Arunodaya has documented the exploitation of female labour for domestic work abroad and compiled a tool-kit to create awareness on the same.

Bernard D’ Sami, coordinator of Arunodhaya-Migrant Initiatives said the tool-kit documented arrest, detention and deportation of migrant workers abroad, which he said was “a murky area”.

As per statistics available for 2007 with the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs, 8.1 lakh people migrate abroad for labour, of which close to 20 per cent comprise women. Arunodhaya, in a recent survey among 120 returned female migrant workers in Tamil Nadu, found that most women migrated abroad for domestic work.

Popular destinations include Singapore and Gulf countries, but Bernard says, Jordan and Syria as emerging as newer markets for Indian emigrant labour.

Lenient emigration rules and easily available tourist and work visas were cited as the reasons for this trend.

Legal cover sought

Social reforms Secretary R. Christodas Gandhi said it was high time the Indian government provided legal protection for migrant labourers abroad.

He said it was unfortunate that the centuries-old practice of Indians working as indentured labour in foreign lands was still on. He said it was better to find employment in one’s home land as language problem or cultural alienation could be avoided.

Tamil Nadu Planning Commission member R. Srinivasan, who launched the tool kit, underscored the need for the Indian government to pay more attention to the plight of poor migrants.

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