HYDERABAD: Neck-deep in debt after marrying off two daughters, coupled with failure of crops for consecutive years, was enough for a farmer like Narsimha Reddy to move to war-torn Iraq, knowing the risks involved. What he did not know was that he was being conned out of ` 1.5 lakh by his agent who hailed from the same village and promised him employment with a construction firm at Erbil in Iraq.
The harrowing tales that followed in his life were as shocking as those of anyone else rescued from these troubled countries.
As many as 31 construction workers, who were stranded in Iraq, returned to their homes in the state on Wednesday.
Reddy, who worked along with them, had moved to Iraq from Gajra Mathapur village in Telangana for employment in 2015 was risky. “I first went to Dubai where I stayed for two months without work. I then got a visa to Iraq for 15 days,” he said.
The agent promised him that after 15 days, work permit would be issued to him. “I got the work permit after three months. The agent is from my village but is avoiding me now,” he added.
Before moving abroad, Reddy was a farmer. “My crops failed. I then took a loan but then the monsoon failed.” After marrying off two of his daughters, Reddy plunged neck-deep in debt. It was then, in 2015, that he decided to seek work abroad.
“I was not paid for the last six months. In December the owner of the construction firm went absconding without paying any of the workers their salaries. There were days when I did not have anything to eat. On some days it would be just a banana for the whole day.” recalled the 45-year-old.
“The police conducted a raid where we were staying and arrested us for overstaying without valid visas. I had to pay 500 dollars to the lawyer and a fine of 300 dollars at the airport. With whatever little money I had saved going down the drain, I came back empty-handed.”
A few days after Reddy was deported to India, 33 others, who had been stranded like him, were brought back to India on April 3 with the intervention of the external affairs ministry. Of the 33 men, one was from Andhra Pradesh and one from Punjab, and the remaining 31 were from Telangana. “I got to know know about the stranded men after a tip off from a friend of mine at Ebril,” said Basanth Reddy, a spokesman for Gulf Telangana Welfare and Cultural Association, an NGO working to help Telangana men stranded in the Gulf countries.