Our Bretheren at Sea

Last year when I was sitting in my drawing hall about twenty women accompanied by children and a cassocked priest, and two laymen came in three vans and came into the house and sat in a row. The visit was un announced and abrupt.There was none but me and my grand son at home, as all others  at home have gone out on their chores. 

They arranged themselves in neat rows and having veiled over their heads started praying, kneeling in front of the sacred heart picture with Incantations  and Lamentations that would pierce the roof of the heavens. I was stunned by the intensity of their piety and wondered whether they had mistaken my residence for a way side prayer hall. 

It soon dawned on me that I had seen a few of these women wildly bemoaning in the television the previous evening the arrest and incarceration of their relatives in the Middle East as they were implicated in an accidental fall and death of a local fisherman and arrested by the police and kept in prison with no relief at sight. The father who accompanied them also spoke in the channel and pleaded for the intervention of the Government to get them out of the prison shackles and restore them to their families. 

After their prayers, I asked them for the purpose of their visit to Me. The father explained that I must use my good office to bring to the notice of the government the sad plight of the ladies and their relatives in prison. I asked for details of these people. They were scarce details. They did not have photos of all in the prison. They did not know the stage of the case , the court where it is under trial,the name of the lawyer, if any if employed, availability of funds, if any, in case the court , acquitted the interned to get back to India. The information on  such questions were in bits and fragments, leaving me with the impression that ground work had not been  done, before they launched themselves into propaganda and publicity of their  plight.

During the discussion with the priest who accompanied, it has come to my knowledge, that most of these fishermen rush to Middle East not on Employment visa but on a Tourisvisa, and after the expiry of visa continue to stay illegally. I also got to know that these people do not go to these fishing companies throughreputed agencies but through hoax  agencies who fleece them of their finance even before they set sail, and continue to halve their income even when they slog in the mid sea. I also learnt from the father that there is no agency to certify whether they are embarking onto a reputed fishing company or not. It also came to my knowledge that fishermen who get employment orders through these agencies keep the information secret to themselves lest others should grab the opportunity and deprive them of their fortune, and thereby deny the chance to know about the credibility of employing company.

I did speak to the concerned in the Government on behalf of these people, and got to know the Government was already in the know of things and that the embassy in question was attending sincerely on the misery of these fishermen. What I found as the missing link was a trusted body in the Middle East as well as on our shores  of our own which could authentically inform families in India, guide the affected and lend legal support in the different countries in the Middle East and in India.

Thoughts on the predicament forces me to suggest the following.

1.The fishermen embarking to Middle East for  should not go there on improper visa.

  1. They should verify the credibility of the company before  they go.
  2. An organisation should be built up to check the visa, credibility of the company that employs, the past conduct of the company etc.inIndia.
  3. A training course on the geography, seascape, the boundaries of various nations, the types of vessels, customs and manners of Arabs , knowledge of local laws and rules, should be given by this organisation.
  4. Organisation to lend support for those in distress in the Mid East must be organised. Such organisations should be led by educated who could talk to lawyers, police, Indian embassy in the Middle East. etc. 
  5. People who report from India in the Arabian countries should register themselves in these organisations compulsorily.
  6. These organisations may  have to obtain the address, tele numbers and next of kin address both in India and in Middle East , keep them in register and render necessary help.

These thoughts were in my mind at the time when these beleaguered few visited my house, but once when Mdm, Jayalalitha got them out , I thought it ended once for all. But I saw a repetition of it reported in the newspaper yesterday  , this time in Qutar.

Hence this article , hoping some one would take this further and translate my suggestions to reality.

by A.X Alexander

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