Every once in a while, you get an article on the novelty of Dubai. The Palm Island, Burj Al Arab, the 7 star hotel, the Burj, the world tallest tower. All briefly touch the issue of third world labour, but hardly any focus on it as their centre piece.

Daily Mirror did a story about it last year, titled The Dark Side of Dubai, don’t know why a google search doesn’t find it though. I came across this article today:

£3 a day ‘serfs ’die for Dubai’s dream

About 10,000 construction workers — including many from the Palm Jumeirah — are crammed into stifling dormitories at the end of the day. They sleep up to 15 to a room, each with a flimsy bunk bed, a thin mattress and dirty, bug-rid-den sheets. They cook their paltry meals on mini-stoves and squat on the ground to eat. One resident spoke of a strike four months ago over a shortage of lavatories.

I can attest to this, heck, I’ve seen shared accommodations in Karama where people live like this.

Gandeep earns £76 a month. His hopes of sending money back to his family have been destroyed. With food costing about £35 a month, there is little left to pay off a £1,100 debt to the recruitment agency, let alone to spare for relatives. His passport was taken by his employer when he arrived in Dubai, effectively trapping him in his job.

This happened to a friend of mine who worked as a graphic designer for a company in the Jebel Ali Free Zone. There are no supposed bans in a Free Zone area apparently, or so he thought. But the passport was still with the employer, who made his life very difficult. After a lot of cajoling and tense moments his passport was finally handed over, a couple of hours before his flight. But the employee was pissed off, and he managed to get a ban on my friend, who was barred from entry into the UAE for six months.

I’ve heard that the Dubai Meterological department has a ceiling limit on the weather forecast here, to never declare temperatures beyond 45 degrees Celsius. This is so that labourers will continue to work uninterrupted during the summer months. (They get to stop working according to labour laws if the temperature goes beyond 45.) These things are only discussed, local media will never do an expose on such a topic, because the press is controlled.

The sheer scale of construction by an estimated 300,000 migrants working for 6,000 companies has allowed unscrupulous recruitment agencies and employers to mistreat them.

This is the real meat of the story. Who are these recruitment agencies run by? Indians. They’re the ones who take money from both employee and employer for a low end job, and plunge these poor people into a minimum of two years of debt. Has the government put even one such agent in jail for sending a fellow citizen into debt and slavery?

What has the Indian government ever done for these labourers? Do these consulates provide any kind of protection or representation when passports are seized? What about a minimum wage clause? Because the UAE govt. sure as hell is not going to set them for non citizens.

And it’s particularly sad that Indian media has never brought any light on this issue. Why is it that only the western world appears sensitive to human rights abuse?, don’t we seem to care for our own?

The labour class who come here are really poor, and they come here because they make more money than they do back home. They lead miserable lives here, but they do it for their family, to escape drought, hunger, poverty. Yes, they come here out of self interest.

You could say that this is all Adam Smith here, and since there are always more Indians willing to subjugate themselves to slave labor conditions, often paying their way in, the matrix of entrapment will never stop.

This profit seeking corporate mentality is very much a western concept. Nike shoes, and iPods use Chinese slave labour too. But since it is “outsourced”, it somehow makes the produce more palatable.

If there’s one particular thing one can blame, it’s the worship of profit and target oriented self interest as the only determining factors for what is acceptable. Dubai is like any other corporation. The concept of minimum wage in America doesn’t apply to outsourced or contracted labour. Why should the UAE make such rules for non citizens, if the Indian government doesn’t apply any pressure on them?

And why the fuck is the media sleeping on this? Please wake up and do a sting operation on these agencies.

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3 Responses

  1. RadhaKrishna

    Read the comment at the end of the article “£3 a day ‘serfs ’die for Dubai’s dream”

    It says…
    “Before you write about their life in Dubai, go and see how they live in their owen contries and how much they earn there if they get any job, or why don’t you suggest to your goverment to take all these poor labores and feed them, so that you stope writing such one side of the story articals.”

    What do you think?

  2. Avinash

    I was just going to comment along similar lines to what radhakrishna has quoted above this. The problem isn’t as one-dimensional as you make it out to be (they seldom are). I’ve had some direct exposure to the recruitment process of blue-collar workforce. As noted, the conditions back home are comparable, if not worse. The very fact that they’re ready to plunk down a lakh of rupees to seek better options speaks volumes of their misery back home. Don’t get me wrong. I’m hardly justifying the recruitment agencies. I personally think they need to be suspended for good few hours by thin steel wires stitched into their testicles.

    Back to the issue though, there are cases of labourers who have come here, gotten fucked over, gone back home and then decided to come _back_ here, because they had a comaparatively easier time of it. These aren’t isolated cases, there are plenty of them.

    Baseline fact: India doesn’t give much of a fuck about these guys. Not the government. Not the media. And definitely not the people of India. Why should they care anyway?

    The labourers are “low-class”, poorly educated, destined for menial work and are treated on par with animals, rather than human beings. Never mind their “rights”. That’s a grail not even on the horizon.

    The ONLY way this sickening shit can be fixed is when our economy makes it possible for a rural blue-collar worker to comfortably afford the basic necessities that we take for granted every day.

    1. Education
    2. Knocking out corruption.

    Cliché? Never.

  3. Avinash

    Either I missed large chunks as I read, or you edited it since I posted my comment above. Either way, it invalidates what I said above with regards to your post being one-dimensional. Apologies.