x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Indian minister promises action on rogue agents

The Indian minister of state for external affairs promises to punish unscrupulous recruitment agents who lured his countrymen to the UAE on false promises.

Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak, the Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research attends a reception in honour of Dr Shashi Tharoor, the Indian minister of state for external affairs, right.
Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak, the Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research attends a reception in honour of Dr Shashi Tharoor, the Indian minister of state for external affairs, right.

The Indian minister of state for external affairs promised yesterday to punish unscrupulous recruitment agents who lured his countrymen to the UAE on false salary promises. Speaking in Dubai on his first visit to the country since his party's victory in last month's elections, Shashi Tharoor also invited Indians who had lost their jobs in the UAE to return and seize the opportunities available in their home country.

He met several ministers before having lunch with Sheikha Lubna al Qasimi, the Minister for Foreign Trade, and later meeting Indian businessmen. "We are extremely concerned that innocent ordinary working men and women are being duped by unscrupulous agents," he said, adding that it was difficult to stop all bad practices because of the volume of demand from the UAE for Indian labourers. While the ministry was setting "fairly clear standards" for labour contractors, there were still "unregulated agents, functioning outside the net of the regulatory authorities who have been fleecing innocent citizens".

He insisted steps had been taken by his government, including amendments in the law to increase the punishment for such agents. "The government cannot solve every problem but we are trying to crack down on this," he said. Although he admitted he had "no influence over working conditions outside of India", he said the two countries had enjoyed a "good dialogue over the issue of labour standards with the UAE over the past few years".

"Right now we find the circumstances satisfactory," he said. His words were echoed by the Indian consul general in Dubai, Venu Rajamony, who said: "The government is moving forward to amend the immigration act to increase punishment on illegal agents. "It has already started cancelling the registration of agents found guilty and people have also been prosecuted in criminal cases." He said India was also running a public information campaign, and added that the countries had recently signed a memorandum of understanding on labour issues.

When questioned about his government's position on UAE-based Indians who had lost their jobs due to the global financial crisis, Mr Tharoor said: "I hope that Indians abroad are alright. For those who are not able to stay here [in the UAE] due to various reasons, we invite them to come back. "India will not lose interest in them. For every Indian there are opportunities in tomorrow's India. They should come back and seize these.

"The government is aware of the valuable contribution and potential problems they face, and we will not be indifferent to them." While he had proposed a special relief package for Gulf returnees, none had yet bee announced. Mr Tharoor's visit, the first by an Indian minister since the United Progressive Alliance swept to power last month, was an unofficial stopover on his way to a meeting of foreign ministers in the Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Co-operation summit, which began on Saturday in Yemen.

He described the countries' bilateral relations as promising, with both nations looking at further economic, security and cultural co-operation in the future. pmenon@thenational.ae