Chennai: Andhra Pradesh’s Minister for Non-Resident Indian Welfare, Palle Raghunatha Reddy, has written a letter to External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj in a bid to gain her attention towards the plight of women domestic workers from Andhra Pradesh languishing in jails in Gulf states.
In the letter, Reddy called for action to bring back the women.
“Necessary steps should be initiated to bring them to their native areas safely by providing free travel and necessary visa documents at the earliest possible (opportunity),” he wrote.
“Instructions should be issued to Indian embassy officials in Gulf countries to interfere in the matter and provide necessary help in terms of food, clothing and shelter.”
Women from Andhra Pradesh and the neighbouring state of Telangana “are being sold like products in a retail shop,” Reddy wrote in the letter sent last week.
“Women are being sold to the tune of Rs 400,000 in Saudi Arabia and between Rs 100,000 to 200,000 in Bahrain, United Arab Emirates and Kuwait,” the minister wrote.
He added that at least 25 women jailed in Gulf states have sought the state government`s help recently.
As per government figures, there are an estimated six million Indian migrants in the six Gulf states of Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Oman.
These include women who leave their villages to take up jobs overseas paying up to three times more than in India, putting their fate in the hands of recruitment agents, who often dupe them.
There is no official data on the exact count of the migrants stranded in Gulf countries but experts put the numbers in tens of thousands, many of them in jail.
Some of the migrants overstay on tourist visas and are unable to pay the fines required to return home. In some cases, they do not have exit visas. Many others have been jailed on petty offences waiting for their case to be heard, according to the Andhra Pradesh state government.
In response to a query in Parliament in March, the Foreign Ministry said their diplomatic missions in all six Gulf states had registered complaints of physical abuse, maltreatment, non-payment of salary, and other grievances.
Requesting anonymity, a senior official in the Andhra Pradesh government said a group of ministers from the state would travel to the Gulf next month to investigate the plight of migrants from their region.
The state government is also in the process of appointing lawyers to provide legal advice to Indian prisoners in Gulf jails, the official said.