Twenty-seven Indians who were stranded in Basra, Iraq, after not being paid wages for over nine months returned to India on Sunday evening. While the workers said there was no violence around them, their living conditions in Iraq were terrible and that the supply of food and medicines was erratic.
On February 18, 140 Indians who worked in factories in Basra had similarly returned home after the intervention of the Ministry of External Affairs.
The 27 workers who arrived at the Indira Gandhi International Airport, Delhi, on Sunday were from Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh. Most of the workers said they had gone to Iraq in the hope of well-paying jobs close to two years ago, but they had not been remunerated for over nine months.
Ravikant Singh from Ambala said, “We worked for a company which a man called Abdullah used to run. We did carpet weaving and were paid well at the beginning. For the last nine months however, we were not paid. We would be told that the money was coming, but there was no sign of it. We couldn’t even leave Iraq without our salaries. When we became desperate, we reached out to our embassy and they arranged for our return.”
Rishipal Singh, from Kangla in Himachal Pradesh said, “By the end of the nine months, we were all just living out of a room. The owner gave us food, but even that sometimes went missing. There were no medicines either. We are very grateful to our government for negotiating our release and arranging for us to return to our families. Basra was largely peaceful, but I will never return to Iraq.”