Odia workers stranded in Muscat seek government help

The workers, who have not been paid for four months, were told to arrange their own tickets back to India after their passports were confiscated.
Video grab of the seven workers stranded in Muscat.
Video grab of the seven workers stranded in Muscat.

BHUBANESWAR: Seven Odia migrant workers who are allegedly stranded in Muscat and have also not been paid wages for months have sought the state government’s intervention for their repatriation.

The workers - five from Ganjam district and one each from Khurda and Jagatsinghpur - are said to have been employed with a Muscat-based marine and shipping company.

The workers have alleged that they were assured a monthly salary of Rs 27,130 besides food and accommodation. However, the company did not pay their salaries for four months. When they protested, the company reportedly asked them to return to India by arranging for their own tickets.

Sunil Behera, Sandip Sahu, Ramchandra Sethu, Beera Dudishty Reddy, and Sameera Jena, all from Ganjam and Bairagi Charan Palei of Khurda and Rakesh Mohapatra of Jagatsinghpur had secured jobs as pipe fabricators through a local agent Sonam Patra. The workers reportedly had paid the agent Rs 1.2 lakh each in February this year. They started working in the company on March 18.

However, instead of nine hours, they were made to work for 12 to 13 hours a day and were not paid wages. Protesting this, they stopped work on May 14 and sought the intervention of the company manager who allegedly confiscated their passports and refused to help. The workers informed their families about their plight through video calls.

Families of Sunil and Sandip filed police complaints in Sorada and Kabisuryanagar police stations respectively. Sunil’s family also lodged a complaint with the Indian embassy in Muscat on May 29. Sunil’s brother Anil Behera said the workers were called to the embassy for an official discussion on June 5.

There, a representative of the company demanded Rs 95,000 from each worker to relieve them of their duties. The representative said the amount was the expense that the company had incurred towards the workers’ visa, flight tickets and recruitment fee to the local agent. However, the original complaint of non-payment of salaries by the employer was not addressed,” Anil alleged.

On Sunday, Sunil informed his family that the employer did not want to engage the seven workers and agreed to return their passports without any money. Accordingly, the embassy officials moved all the workers to another facility ‘Little India Camp’ in Muscat. “The embassy officials have asked them to arrange funds for their airfare to India after which their passports would be given back to them,” said Anil.

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