NRI Achievers had occassion to interact with Dr. Sai Giridhar, who presently serves as the CEO of the Al Hilal Hospital in Bahrain, at the sidelines of an awards function at New Delhi recently.
Dr. Giridhar is also involved in the affairs of Indians resident in the Gulf actively. We spoke to him about the most pressing issues confronting the expatriate Indian in the Gulf.
“I was born and brought up in Bangalore, for the past five and a half years I have been in Bahrain, and now I am in New Delhi in this august gathering of eminent personalities, seniors, elders … I am pleasantly surprised about the vision of people behind IIFS, who have made the effort to identify people of eminence globally. This bringing together of people tells me that we all work together, whether in India or outside India, and as Indians if we put all our best efforts, then one day we will realize the India of our dreams.
“Bahrain is a very liberal place. There are about 4,00,000 Indians, out of a total population of 12,00,000. As to problems this one-thirds faces, it is mostly limited to the working class, the laborers, huge numbers of whom are recruited and brought to the Gulf. Each country has its own rules and regulations, which are not clearly understood by everybody, and least of all by the laborers who are coming. There are also certain loopholes in the system that lead to misunderstanding and disillusionment between employers and employees sometimes, especially new recruits.
“For example, the salary promised mismatches the actual salary, the job title turns out to be different, the company itself is different … there are hundreds of questions a person asks before spending money on recruiters and leaving the country, and recruiters may not be able to answer all queries completely, and if some misinformation creeps in, the trust level goes down. And there are cases where the employees were given lesser salaries than they were promised. So when the employee comes and says, ‘I was recruited for this salary and this position, so now I do not want to work,’ we have a problem. Whenever there is a dispute like this between the employer and the employee, the employer has to take proper action.
“There is legal and Embassy support available to these distressed workers, but you will not find them opting to come there first, they have to be coaxed and coerced. One of the reasons could be that they are doing odd-jobs. There are many who end up working elsewhere though they have a visa for somewhere else, and so when the authorities take action, they just stay silent and avoid coming to the Embassy and asking for redressal, as that redressal would mean getting sent back to India … and then, this is nothing new, but it becomes news when one of these people end up in an unfortunate situation.
“If you ask me what the solution can be, I would say combining this process of recruitment right from the source to the destination is one answer. Should it be controlled by the government? Well, it already is to a certain extent, how well controlled and for what purposes, that is the question. I have come across two instances, one in Kuwait forwarded to me by the Domestic Workers Movement of India based out of Chennai, and another in Bahrain. In both instances the circumstances were similar if not the same.
“I had approached the authorities and the Embassy to first represent the common aim of all the organizations like GOPIO that are interested in helping our people abroad … and also as a curious Indian who wants to know what is happening. I got good response from the Embassy at Bahrain and even a clear picture of what was happening, they were apparently already following this up for almost 10 months before the matter was taken up by the media …
“I must particularly mention His Excellency Mohan Kumar of India who had left no stone unturned in putting pressure upon the company to withdraw the cases they had filed against these people and clear them, because they were on a travel ban, that is like an open jail, you cannot travel out of Bahrain. That was lifted. In the Kuwait case, I wrote to the Ambassador, but did not get a response. Happily, the problem got solved in a similar way.
“Magazines like yours can also serve as a good medium to convey first hand the messages from middle-east and bring it right to the center of power here. If you can create awareness about the issues in the middleeast among the public, among the officials and authorities here through your magazine, that would actually get across the message through a different route.”