The great Indian dream is a beautiful one – ditch the country and take off abroad as quickly as possible. It is the hope of most Indians that they will find a suitable situation in Singapore, Malaysia, The United States of America, London, Paris, Milan… anywhere but India. This way they can rake in the dollars, pounds, or yen, enjoy exotic cuisine, travel, and truly partake of the good things in life. Like I said it is a beautiful dream and there are millions fortunate enough to be able to live it. And yet there is every indication that the picture is not as rosy as it appears. Scratch the surface and there are traces of a nightmarish existence filled with abuse, discrimination, and extreme hardship.
The Hindu reported a sordid tale about the plight of carpet weavers and their terrible suffering in Malaysis before they were rescued by social workers. The weavers had been suckered in with promises of a lucrative job offer and then overworked, deprived of pay, and subjected to verbal abuse and physical torture. But at least their story had a reasonably happy ending. One shudders to think of those who are trapped in similar situations without any means of escape. The complaints about the abuse of Indians in Malaysia keep trickling in. Children are abused in schools because of their Indian origin; adults are persecuted and even imprisoned. The happenings in Malaysia are not isolated incidents. Covert bullying resulted in the murder of a South Indian teenager Reena Virk in Canada. She was tricked into meeting her peers near a grocery store where she was beaten and drowned. She was accused of stealing a friend’s diary and calling all the boys listed on it. Last year a survey conducted by Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) found that a majority of Indian doctors are among the victims of verbal and physical abuse encountered in the course of their professional duties. There are also horror stories being told about skilled and semi – skilled labourers being mercilessly exploited. Sometimes trained professionals are forced to do menial labour. There are numerous problems being faced by Indian workers abroad and for some strange reason they are usually brushed under the carpet.
Spurred by the hope of making a fortune, many Indians are anxious to get their papers in order and begin their new life of prosperity. Individuals sell their ancestral lands, their jewels, and other assets in order to procure their visas and other necessary documents. The proceedings are laborious and painstakingly slow with the result that many illegal employment agencies offer their services to speed up the process in return for a fat fee. Consequently wannabe migrants are cheated and tricked into accepting menial jobs, positions that pay a lot less than was originally promised, inhumane living and working conditions as well as other forms of abuse. They are ruined both financially and mentally. The laws in the host countries offer little hope as they were framed for the welfare of their own citizens not immigrants. Thus, these poor victims are consigned to a life of abject misery and robbed of their hopes and dreams.
It is high time the government got into the act to protect the rights of its citizens employed abroad. Laws addressing the question of Indians working abroad must be framed and strictly enforced. The issue also needs to be addressed in the UN. Finally, it must be remembered by the dreamers that the grass may always be greener on the other side but one needs to be very careful when going off in search of greener pastures.