Illegal migrants but legal remittance

Minister of State for External Affairs, V. K. Singh, has said that the Indian labourers taken hostage by the ISIS from Mosul in Iraq and killed in 2014 had gone there illegally through unlicensed travel agents and the Indian Embassy in Iraq has no record of them. For the MoS, External Affairs to make such a statement at a press conference is unusual and unprecedented. What he said amounts to the admission that a thriving racket in luring Indian labourers to Arabian countries is going on and either the Centre does not know it or cannot do anything about it.
It is common knowledge that unlicensed and unscrupulous travel agents or contractors lure poor Indians to countries of the Middle East by giving them promises of a high salary and other facilities. But one landing there, the migrant labourers discover to their utter shock that the actual payment is far less than that promised, working hours are longer and working conditions harsher still. He has also to pay a huge amount of money to the contractor concerned. One of the first things that the contractors do after the migrant labourer sets is foot on foreign soil is to take away his passport from him, so that he is completely at the mercy of the contractor. What the MoS did not answer was whether the Government was aware of this racket and if so what has been done to end this illegal trafficking of men.
Obviously, the Government knows all about it and prefers to look the other way. The ‘illegal’ Indian migrant workers remit a huge amount of hard currency back home. In 2016-17, their remittance amounted to Rs. 4,28,540 crore. Migrant labour from India is mostly from Kerala and the North Indian States. It is crass poverty that drives them to unknown lands and among unknown people for earning money. Their migration is illegal but the hard currency they remit back home is perfectly ‘legal’. It is a major source of India’s ‘invisible’ export. Gen. Singh, apparently, has no trouble with the money they send. It is only when something happens to them and the Government finds it impossible to avoid doing something for them that it suddenly remembers that the migrants had migrated ‘illegally’. Now that the Government admits that it knows about the human trafficking, will it take effective steps to stop it or do nothing because money has no colour. As Mao Zedong once famously said, as long as the cat can catch the mouse her colour is immaterial.

Monday, 9 April, 2018