39-year-old Pawan Kumar, a resident of Unnao, Uttar Pradesh, has been stuck in the Middle-East country of Kuwait for more than three years. He went to work in the country on a Khadim visa (domestic employment visa) on 7 December 2013.
Pawan was working in a laundry service business and was satisfied with his job for the initial four months. However, the company was later sold to another sponsor/merchant named Abdul Shammari.
Within a month of his employment under Shammari, Pawan, along with four other workers, was blamed for the losses incurred by the company. The management started abusing them regularly. He was once locked in the trunk of his sponsor’s (employer’s) car, taken to a forest and brutally beaten. His salary was also unpaid for months. When Pawan threatened to leave, his sponsor offered to pay his wages and coerced him into signing documents in that regard. Since the papers were in Arabic, Pawan was unaware of what he was agreeing to.
His subsequent demands of salary were denied on the grounds that they were already paid, as per the papers he had signed. He was brutally beaten up every time he went to negotiate with Shammari. He could not even return to India as his sponsor had confiscated his passport.Kuwait as the last resort. The Labour Department of the Embassy assured him of his safe return to India.
He finally decided to approach the Indian Embassy in Kuwait as the last resort. The Labour Department of the Embassy assured him of his safe return to India.
Until further inquiry of his case, he was put in the embassy’s shelter home. However, due to its low standards, his health was hampered. Pawan left the embassy in 10 days and started living with his friends.
In January 2016, when Pawan questioned the embassy on the progress of his case, he was informed that his sponsor has lodged an absconding case against him, in addition to a false criminal case of stealing KWD 2,800 (around Rs 6 lakhs).
Since then, Pawan has been tweeting to External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj in hopes of aid. Despite the embassy receiving orders to hire a lawyer for Pawan, he had to initially pay 100 KWD as fees for legal counsel, which was later reimbursed.
Shaheen Sayyed, a social activist closely working with Pawan’s case and many similar cases, questioned the embassy on the same, but received no definite answer.
Speaking to The Logical Indian, she said, “The embassy says that Pawan’s case is complicated due to the criminal charges against him. But the charges were filed after a few months of his call for help to the embassy. Why didn’t they conduct an inquiry then? Why is it still pending?”
“These workers go to Kuwait in hopes of making substantial money to support their families back in India. They work under sponsors who buy their labour from an agency. On reaching Kuwait, they realise that the reality is quite different – the work is not good and their sponsors have utmost control over then. When they demand to be allowed to return back to India, the sponsors confiscate their passports. Hence, they abscond. Following which, they get blacklisted from the airports as absconding criminals. They are left with no option to come back home. The embassy also fails to help their cause”, added Sayyed.
Shaheen Sayyed has been working as a social activist in Kuwait for the last 20 years. Recently, she helped 28 Indians stuck in Kuwait to return to the country. She informed us that there have been times when the workers lose their lives dealing with the harassments they undergo. In such situations, she ensures that their bodies are handed over to their families in India.
Social media acts as the most powerful medium for the workers to explain their plight to Sayyed. They send her messages on Facebook or tag her, asking for her help.
Recently, she wrote an open letter to Sushma Swaraj, urging her to bring speedy reforms to help the Indians stuck in Kuwait.
Pawan’s wife recently wrote a letter to Dr VK Singh, External Affairs Minister, New Delhi, requesting the minister to take prompt action.
Pawan also received a reply today on his Tweet to VK Singh where he is asking for the update on his case.
The Logical Indian community urges the government to help Pawan Kumar return to India.
We understand that there have been instances where the workers themselves violated the norms of the Khadim visa. For instance, in 2016, 3,500 Indian workers, including 300 people of Wagad region of Rajasthan were arrested in Kuwait for working in factories and commercial places, even though the visa only permits them to work as a domestic help.
However, the case of Pawan Kumar is an example of unnecessary harassment and abuse of an innocent man. He has been a victim of false cases filed against him and it is essential that an inquiring be made on Abdul Shammari’s claims.