Duped Malayalis wash dish in Kuala Lumpur

A job in  luxury hotels in Kuala Lumpur  with a salary of RM 1,500 per month or Rs 26,000-plus. An eight-hour job, mainly room service, with two weekly offs on Saturdays and Sundays plus bi-monthly leave in addition to pocket money for other expenses. Food and accommodation being free, the entire salary can be saved and sent home.

This was the pitch by a job agent in Kerala that landed about 40 young Keralites in the Malaysian capital. These youngsters, mostly from Palakkad and Thrissur, have been languishing in Malaysia for many months now, the oldest for about four years.

Reason: none of them are in a position to raise Rs 75,000 worth of local money to get back their passport. That the job agent happens to be a Keralite, goes without saying.

All of them now eke out their living serving food at various restaurants in and around KL. “It’s almost like being in a jail. We have to work daily for 12 hours a day and they give only two days off in a month. The salary is only around Rs 10,000, credited every two months. Local currency worthRs 20,000 is deduced every year to renew the work permit and our passports are in the custody of the management. If caught by the police, we will be fined. We are staying in a dormitory near these restaurants with bare minimum facilities,” says a 28-year-old youth from Palakkad district, who works in a restaurant near the majestic Petronas Twin Tower in KL.

Before landing in KL, he was earning around Rs 15,000 as a private bus conductor.

Says a youngster from Pazhayannur in Thrissur who reached KL six months ago, “We’ve been looking at ways to warn the youths in Kerala about what’s happening here. If we want to return, we have to pay a hefty sum to get back our passport. While coming, we had to pay the agent Rs 75,000. They demand a similar amount to release our passports,” he says. None of them seem to know much about the agent, other than that he is a Keralite who introduced himself as Mohammed and operates from north Kerala.

And all of them declined to be named or photographed. “A few months ago, one of our friends filed a complaint before the Indian Embassy and they asked for an explanation from the restaurant management.  That man was beaten up so badly by goons that he could not walk for weeks,” the youth from Palakkad says before rushing off to take another order.

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