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Deserted workers to fly home

Ismail Sebugwaawo
Filed on January 4, 2011

RAS AL KHAIMAH - After spending months in harsh conditions without proper food and, sometimes, with no electricity and water in their accommodation units, around 150 Indian employees will finally be sent home this week.

These workers, who also include a few skilled employees, have been working for Anvem FZC — a ventilator fabrication and carpentry company located in Jazeera Al Hamra area of Ras Al Khaimah.

They said their company stopped operating more than two months ago after their Indian employer, Viswa Pradad Reddy, allegedly absconded from the country.

Reddy allegedly had seven companies in the UAE, including two companies in Ras Al Khaimah and five in Sharjah, but all have stopped operations.

The workers have been living in harsh conditions after their employer stopped giving them salaries for the past five to six months.

The Indians have been surviving on help from good-hearted people and friends and, sometimes, receiving food and money to buy diesel for the generator at their accommodation from Indian community organisations.

S. Prasad, social and welfare convener of Sevanam UAE, an Indian community organisation, said he got information about the situation of these workers from a friend two months ago. He visited them. “The workers told me that since the closure of their company, they had no means of survival because they have not received salaries for the last five months. They were not able to get food and other basic necessities,” he said.

Sevanam started providing assistance to them. “I also informed my friends about the situation of these people and some of them provided them with food, water and other basic necessities, including fuel for the generator which provides electricity at their accommodation units,” he said.

On many days, the workers had to prepare food using wood because they did not have money to buy cooking gas.

After managing for months without their salaries, the workers lodged a complaint against their employer with the Ras Al Khaimah Investment Authority (RAKIA) Free Trade Zone, where the company had been registered. RAKIA investigated the matter and ordered the owner to resolve the salary issue.

“One day, we received information that our employer had absconded and the machinery in his other factories were missing. That was the day our factory stopped operating,” said Mallesh Nakkadasir.

Some workers said after their company stopped its operations, the owners of the accommodation units asked them vacate.

“Some people came here ordering us to vacate the accommodation but we refused as we did not have anywhere else to go and our salaries had not been paid yet. Water and electricity supplies were disconnected from the accommodation and the situation has been really difficult,” said T. N. Reddy, a 38-year-old worker.

“Our employer must have planned his escape. He had fabrication companies in the UAE but he transferred all machinery from the other factories gradually. We do not know where he took these machines to. It is only in the Jazeera Al Hamra factory that the machines remained,” said 44-year-old Vijay Kumar.

He noted that their boss had also transferred all workers from other factories in the UAE and kept them in the accommodation units at the Jazeera Al Hamra where they have spent more than four months.

Ayyappan, 36, who had worked with the company for the last two years, said, “My monthly salary was Dh800 but I have spent five months without my salary. The situation has been difficult — no food, no medical services and other facilities. I have a wife and two children but I could not send them any money,” he added.

According to Prasad and some of the workers, RAKIA has seized the machinery on the factory premises and has provided all workers with flight tickets to India in addition to paying them two months’ basic salaries.

Thirty of the workers have been referred to the Public Prosecution after the authorities found that their visas had expired. It was also found out that the employer had not stamped visas in the passports of some of these workers. It is only after getting court clearance that these people will be sent home, said Prasad.

Sixty of the workers left for India on Sunday evening and the remaining workers are expected to leave the UAE during this week.

Officials of RAKIA were not available for comments.

ismail@khaleejtimes.com


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