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Indian workers and housemaids to get protection in Bahrain

On November 13, 2008

A joint agreement between Bahrain and India gives us hope about the status of Indian workers and housemaids in the country. According to Gulf Daily News, the leading English daily in Bahrain:

A COMPREHENSIVE labour agreement that aims to protect the welfare of Indian workers and housemaids is to be signed between Bahrain and India next month. Overseas Indian Affairs Minister Vayalar Ravi will authorise the deal with Labour Minister Dr Majeed Al Alawi during a visit to Bahrain on December 4. They signed an initial Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in Kumarakom, Kerala earlier this year.

"Once the final agreement is signed, Bahrain will become the fifth country in the Gulf to sign an MoU on labour and manpower co-operation with India," Mr Ravi told a Press conference at the Sheraton Hotel yesterday.

"It will have special clauses to protect housemaids who are not covered by labour laws in the Gulf, including Bahrain."

Mr Ravi said a meeting of Indian Ambassadors in the Gulf would be held in New Delhi on November 27 and 28.

"Ambassadors of a few other labour receiving countries will also attend the meeting, which will discuss various issues facing expatriate Indian workers."

Mr Ravi said India had already signed similar MoUs with the UAE, Oman, Qatar and Kuwait. "It has gone a long way in protecting the interest of our workers.

"The UAE government has issued strict guidelines to employers on improving the living and working conditions of Indian workers. More than 150 inspectors have been appointed to ensure that the guidelines are implemented."

Mr Ravi said his ministry has introduced a minimum wage of $250 to $300 (BD94.500-BD113.400) for Indian housemaids working in the Gulf. "I am happy that it has been implemented successfully in Bahrain," he said.

"Employers are also advised to provide mobile phones to housemaids to ensure that every Indian domestic worker is connected to the embassy."

Indian Ambassador Balkrishna Shetty said the MoU would help ensure the smooth flow of workers as per the requirements of the kingdom. "It will cover a clause to ensure that the right person is recruited for the right job with proper salary," he told the GDN.

"Workers should add value to the labour market and the economy here. It helps enhance productivity in all sectors."

Another highlight will be provision for joint recruitment and training of workers by both countries, said Mr Shetty.

"The MoU will go a long way in reducing the number of cases of exploitation of workers by unscrupulous agents."

Mr Ravi urged the investors from the Gulf to look at India as an investment destination.

"Power generation, petroleum and fertiliser are areas where they can invest and make profits," he said.

"The global economic crisis has not affected India the way other countries have been because of the well regulated banking system and the massive consumer market dominated by more than 350 million people from the middle class."

We sincerely hope that the situation of migrant workers in the Gulf will improve and that their rights would be legally protected, but many of us would just like to see these countries live up to their promises instead of simply making them. There is still a long way to go to secure migrant human rights and significantly improve their living conditions within the Gulf.