Indian workers sold like cattle in Saudi Arabia: Stowaway
Rachna Singh, TNN 4 January 2010, 01:25am IST
JAIPUR: Habib Hussain of Moradabad, who hid in a toilet on an Air India flight from Saudi Arabia to return to his own country, says he did so for his two children, his pregnant wife, and an ailing mother. After his bizarre experience, Habib says he has realised that `aadhi roti' (half a piece of bread) at home is better than one in an alien land. He also said Indian labour is sold like cattle in that country.
He had sold his two `bigha' land for Rs 1.25 lakh and left behind just about Rs 11,000 for his family after paying the agent. He now tearfully says, ``There was no point in staying in Saudi. I just had to return. My wife was two months pregnant when I left and will have a baby any time now. My family was hungry here; I was hungry there. I was better off earning Rs 80 a day and feeding my family rather than living on a promise of Rs 15,000-20,000 and not getting a paisa.
``I know there could have been serious problems during the flight, but I had confidence in my countrymen. Moreover, I was ready to face any consequence in India which would have been better than living in Saudi Arabia,'' he says.
``After grazing goats until noon, I offered namaz. In the evening, after helping a Haji with his bags, I slipped into a toilet in the lower deck of the aircraft. Forty-five minutes after the plane took off, an air hostess saw me. After she heard my story, she gave me a seat and food,'' said Habib.
All that Habib got to eat in the six months that he was away was one roti and a bowl of dal worth Re 1 each day - bought from the money that the Hajis tipped him with. ``I didn't get a penny from my employer and started saving whatever I could to get back to my country. I could manage to save Rs 800 and thought if my passport was returned to me, I could board a flight to India. But whenever we asked for our passports, we were kicked and thrashed and made to work for over 14 to 18 hours a day,'' he said.
``Indian labour is sold in Saudi like cattle and thousands of Indians from UP and Bengal are suffering there. They are helpless without their passports,'' said Habib. ``My agent (Imran) got an assignment to provide 50 labourers from India. We were recruited and sent in groups of five, 10 and 20. After landing, I was made to work in Jeddah for a month. I grazed goats during the day and worked as a cleaner at the airport in the evenings. I worked for 14-18 hours a day. Thereafter, I was sold to a `khafil' or agent in Medina who required 500 people. In Medina, I worked for over 15 hours daily. I wept and wondered how my family was doing back home,'' he said.
``My father passed away two years back and my mother is ill and needs medication. I just want to get back home. I hope my case will be seen with empathy. Who will feed my children if I am put behind bars?'' he asked.