HYDERABAD: “I jumped from the second floor of the building. I could not bear the harassment by my employer's wife anymore,” said Shabana Begum, recalling the nightmare of her work as a maid in Saudi Arabia.
Her account of employment in the Gulf touched a raw nerve with everyone at a workshop on Case Management for Gulf Migrants organised by the Migrants’ Rights Council here on Sunday. “I was forced to work 21 hours at a stretch. I hardly slept,” Shabana said. She broke her back after she jumped from the second floor. The local police shifted her to a hospital and the Indian Embassy assisted her to travel back to India. But her freedom had come at a high cost- when she landed in Hyderabad, she had to be driven in a wheelchair.
Shabana had travelled to Saudi in 2010 with the help of a local agent in order to earn some money to take care of her two children, after her husband divorced her. Though Shabana was only 23 years old and women below 30 years cannot immigrate, the private agency entered Shabana’s age as 30 years in the passport application and immigration documents.
Shabana’s employer had four children and they used to live in a four-storeyed building, where she had to sweep, scrub, wash clothes and also take care of the children. From the first day of her employment, she was forced to work 18 hours a day, which got increased to 21 hours during Ramzan.
“I used to sleep at 3 a.m and the employer’s wife used to wake me as early as 5 a.m,” Shabana recalled, fighting back tears. With the increase in work pressure, her health condition deteriorated. Though she worked for seven months, she got wages for only two months, which was around `6,000 (600 Dinars) per month.
MRC vice-president, M Bheem Reddy said many Telugu people are falling prey to private travel agencies promising moon to them.
“The people are lured by the dreams but after landing abroad, they are running into trouble because they are not aware of the laws. The government should provide the unskilled labourers necessary training,” Bheem Reddy said.