Help at hand for Indian workers in UAE
Indian Workers Resource Centre for distressed Indians proves to be popular; number of calls doubles since its sinception four years ago.
Indian expats with a legal consultant at the Indian Workers Resource Centre at Jumeirah Lake Towers, Dubai. — KT file photo
Dubai — When Rasiya Begum (name changed) reached Ras Al Khaimah in search of a teacher’s job a few months ago, she had no clue what was actually waiting in store for her.
The woman from Jharkand was promised a job by an African national. However, on her arrival, she was asked to work as a housemaid and indulge in immoral activities. Sensing the danger, Begum rang up the 24x7 helpline for Indian workers in the UAE.
Calls through helpline: 70,000
Walk-in customers: 6,500
Counselling sessions: 4,850
Legal counselling: 4,120
Personal counselling: 510
Financial counselling: 220
Awareness campaigns: 220
Email and fax: 2,000
How to seek help
> 24x7 toll-free helpline: 8004 6342 (800-India)
> Direct Phone: 04 434 0899
> Fax: 04 430 7492
> SMS: 055 870 3725
> E-mail: email@example.com
> Website: www.iwrcuae.in
> Walk-in Centre: 15L, Silver Tower, Cluster-I, Jumeirah Lakes Towers, PO Box-62494
She did not have credit in her phone. But since the helpline is a toll-free number, she was able to talk to the executive who attended her call throughout the night. She needed guidance and encouragement to get out of the place and head to the Indian Consulate in Dubai. With the timely intervention and support of the officials, she was rescued and sent back home.
Begum is just one of the thousands of Indian workers whose grievances were solved through the Indian Workers Resource Centre (IWRC), a welfare centre for distressed Indians set up over four years ago.
The number of calls to the IWRC, set up by the Indian government to handle issues pertaining to the over two million-strong Indian nationals here, especially the blue-collar workers, has almost doubled compared to the initial years.
The centre, an outsourced facility, was inaugurated by the then Indian President Pratibha Patil during her visit to the UAE in November 2010.
The 24x7 toll-free helpline 800INDIA (80046342) now receives an average of 70 calls a day compared to the 40 calls of late, according to IWRC officials.
“The daily call volume has gone up from 40 to 70 ... that is a big achievement,” Sr. Manager-Operations at IWRC, Anish Choudhury, told Khaleej Times.
He attributes the reason to better awareness about the facility among Indian expatriates here. “We noticed that the number of calls started going up after the IWRC hotline number was publicised through the centres for Indian document attestation, passport and visa application, and other places with more visibility to Indians,” he said.
The centre has received almost 70,000 calls since its inception. A large number of calls are enquiries about passport services and other general information and legal support.
In the past four years, almost 6,500 people walked into the centre, seeking help and for counselling services. About 4,850 counselling sessions have been held up till last month, with legal counselling topping the list at about 4120 sessions.
“From bad tactics by employers to abusive debt collection methods by banks, most of the problems reported turn out to be legal cases,” noted Chaudhury, who works for the outsourced agency Alankit Assignments Ltd that currently runs the centre located in Jumeirah Lake Towers.
Over 500 psychological counselling sessions were held to address personal and family matters, while almost 220 sessions were offered to assist callers with financial advice.
The figures are testimonials to the observation of the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs that lack of awareness about the legal procedures and services is one of the biggest problems being faced by Indian workers. Secondly, they have individual problems pertaining to employment, salary disbursement, living conditions, financial issues and family problems, the ministry had said while launching the centre to address these issues. In most cases, the centre’s staff have to make persuasive calls to convince the employers or banks to help the troubled workers and depending on the nature of calls, they are escalated to the consulate or embassy for the officials to act upon and offer support.
“If any worker is not able to come over, we are also providing telephonic counselling service, provided we have documented evidence that the caller is an Indian. For having a talk of 20minutes, they don’t have to come all the way to the centre,” said Chaudhury.
With the centre having no branch in Abu Dhabi, workers from far off areas like Al Ruwais and Al Ain are benefitting from the phone-in service.
The centre also conducted over 200 awareness campaigns in construction company premises and community associations to educate the workers on general financial prudence and the benefits of joining the Mahatma Gandhi Pravasi Surakhsa Yojana pension scheme meant for poor workers. These also included medical camps which tackled common chronic diseases and summer health of workers.
Corporate houses and community associations are also extending a helping hand to IWRC in assisting the poor workers.
Though the shifting of the centre from Bur Dubai to Jumeirah Lake Towers last year was not a welcome move for many community members, Chaudhury defended the current location’s benefit. “There was a dip in the number of people who used to walk-in during our transition period. But it has picked up now. We are close to the metro station and Al Quoz and Jebel Ali areas where many Indian workers are living,” he said.
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