Workers receive aid as owner gives in to pleas

DUBAI - The owner of a company whose workers were hit by a labour campfire here gave in to pleas of a group of good Samaritans to help the workers. The group had been barred from distributing humanitarian aid to the workers by the company's officials earlier yesterday.

By Prerna Suri

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Published: Thu 12 Aug 2004, 9:19 AM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 1:13 PM

Nearly 3,000 shirts, trousers, T-shirts, socks and shoes were packed in individual bags along with packets of money by the volunteers, who planned to distribute the materials to the workers staying at the camp site. Company officials, however, told this reporter that the materials could not be distributed as they had strict instructions from their owner regarding any kind of distribution of materials to the workers.

Living in dire conditions, many of the labourers did not even have a shirt on their back and were ecstatic at the site of the packets.

One of the volunteers of the group said that he was dismayed by the company's attitude towards their gesture, which was purely directed on humanitarian grounds.

"We had earlier visited the camp site and distributed some materials for the workers but did not face any major problems. Although this time we had a more organised and concerted effort, we were quite surprised by the amount of problems we faced. Instead of encouraging people to help out with the cause, these people are putting unnecessary hurdles in our way," said Lakhi Ramchandani, a businessman.

The volunteers, however, kept pleading with the owner of the company to be allowed to distribute the materials among the workers. They were finally given the permission, much to the joy of the workers.

There were also some workers who declined to accept anything, as they feared the wrath of their employers, who were keeping a close watch on them. But a majority of them accepted the things happily.

Rajesh, one of the workers, said that he was in dire need of clothes and shoes and was thankful to the volunteers for their help. "I was quite worried at first as we weren't sure whether we would be getting the assistance or not. But when we finally received our packets, I was very happy to see the things I got. I'm going to start wearing my new shoes from today onwards," he said excitedly.

Collecting the materials over a week's time, Prakash Nihalani, another volunteer, explained how the group went about their collection drive. "We approached a number of business houses who heartily agreed with our cause and contributed generously," he said. "Within a week's time we had collected enough money and materials for the 3,000 workers of the company. Seeing their smiling faces makes everything seem worthwhile."

Nearly 3,000 workers, the majority of whom were from the subcontinent, lost all their belongings in the July 31 fire with many of them being left penniless and homeless. Nearly 200 workers are still living at the dilapidated campsite. Dh30, 000 worth of goods in kind and Dh6, 000 in cash were raised by the volunteers in total.

His story

DUBAI -Speaking to Khaleej Times, the owner of the contracting company explained the reasons behind his refusal to allow the aid to the workers. "We are taking care of our people in every way possible and are aware that there are plenty of people wishing to help them out. However, there have been instances where individuals have created hoopla over the fire and we do not want anyone to garner any brownie points from this incident. The workers are being treated as humanely as possible and the company has spent enormous sums of money for their rehabilitation," he said.

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