Dormant agencies act as middlemen to recruit people to Arab Gulf by taking money, says rights activist
Around 30% of the Indian government approved recruitment agencies who are entrusted to facilitate safe and fair migration for Indians to foreign countries are dormant, an RTI reveals.
Deciphering the RTI reply, a migrant rights and RTI activist alleged that all these dormant agencies are acting as middlemen to fleece potential migrants.
“There are around 1400 registered recruitment agencies in India. However, the RTI exposes that around 400 didn’t even recruit a single person during 2019. These registered agencies are acting as middlemen and fleecing potential migrants. They hold the license only to ensure they are not caught by the police,” Bheem Reddy Mandha, the migrant rights and RTI activist, told The Lede.
The RTI reveals that 320 recruitment agencies in 2017, 402 in 2018 and 416 in 2019 have not recruited a single person during those years.
According to government norms, the registered agent can only take Rs 30,000 or 45 days' salary in the host country as recruitment charges.
“This is not a profitable business. So, the agencies, which have registration and run in small towns will act as middlemen or sub-agents for big agencies in big cities. And for processing the papers and guiding the potential migrants to big agencies, they charge a fee, which will not be recorded officially,” Bheem Reddy said.
In 2017, the Indian government had slashed the recruitment agency registration fee to Rs 8 lakh from Rs 50 lakh, to avoid unfair practices.
A recruitment agency that has taken registration for Rs 8 lakh will be able to recruit 100 potential migrants for 5 years and those who have obtained a license after paying Rs 50 lakh will be able to recruit 1000 plus potential migrants.
“However, this also seems to fail. Now, small businessmen take registration. They act as middlemen and fleece potential migrants,” Bheem Reddy added.
Talking to The Lede, Krishna Reddy, a migrant worker in Saudi Arabia, said that he was duped by a similar dormant official recruitment agency operating in the outskirts of Hyderabad.
“I didn’t know that they are not processing recruitment. The advertisement in the newspaper had told to approach them. When I went there, they asked me for Rs 80,000 to get this job. I paid the money and submitted my passport. After a few days, they told me to travel to Mumbai and meet an official at a big recruitment agency. I went there. They processed the visa and I flew to Saudi Arabia,” Krishna, who is working as a cleaner in a hotel in Riyadh, said.
“Later on only, I found that the Hyderabad agency was duping me,” Krishna said adding that he is unhappy with losing money but nothing much can be done against any agency in India as they are well connected.
Almost 45% of the agencies are based in Mumbai and they have been in the field for more than three decades.
In 2019, out of the 3,60,456 Indians who migrated to foreign countries through recruitment agencies, 1,79,395 were recruited by agencies in Mumbai, according to the Indian government.
According to Bheem Reddy Mandha, even a company based in the Arab Gulf offers free recruitment, and some of the dormant recruitment agencies hide that fact and fleece money from the potential migrants.
“Recently, we came to know that a few good companies had been offering free and fair recruitment. However, potential migrants were told to pay. Those who had paid were sent to Mumbai agencies. Those Mumbai agencies processed the visa. Interestingly, the Mumbai agencies advised the workers not to pay anyone. But those who had paid already didn’t reveal that fearing job loss,” Bheem Reddy added.
There are 30 million Indian migrant workers, with over nine million in the GCC region (Gulf Cooperation Council) alone.
Over 90% of Indian migrant workers who work in the Arab Gulf are semi-skilled and unskilled workers and these are the workers who are mainly subjected to a different kind of exploitation.
According to Bheem Reddy, the majority of the workers, even if they are recruited through registered agencies, they are subjected to exploitation.
On the decent working conditions front, data tabled in the Lok Sabha in November 2019 had revealed that on average, 52 Indians working in the Arab Gulf are lodging labour complaints daily in the Indian embassies.
“Most of the complaints received from the Indian workers are regarding non-payment of salaries and denial of legitimate labour rights and benefits,” V Muraleedharan, the Minister of State for External Affairs, had told the parliament.
According to the minister, non-issuance, and renewal of residence permits, non-payment and grant of overtime allowance, denying weekly holidays and forcing the worker into longer working hours are a few of the key issues.
"Refusal to grant exit/re–entry permits for visit to India, refusal to allow the worker to return to India on final exit visa after completion of their contracts and non-provision of medical and insurance facilities, not being paid compensation upon death, etc are also reasons for complaints,” Muraleedharan had added.
Indian migrant workers in foreign countries had remitted USD 79 billion last year to India.