MOIA probes recruitment of Indian workers for US shipyard

March 10th, 2008 - 5:35 pm ICT by admin  

New Delhi, March 10 (IANS) The Ministry Of Overseas Indian Affairs has initiated an inquiry against two agents who had recruited workers for the Signal International shipyard in the US after the labourers quit the firm accusing it of exploiting them. A senior official in the ministry’s overseas employment services division said Monday that an inquiry was being conducted to find out if there were any anomalies in the recruitment done by the two agents listed by the workers.

“We expect to get a report by tonight,” he said.

Media reports last week highlighted the plight of workers, mainly welders and pipe fitters from Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar and Delhi, who were recruited on H2B visas to meet the labour shortage in the aftermath of the Katrina hurricane in New Orleans.

About 100 workers, supported by a local NGO, New Orleans Workers’ Centre for Racial Justice, quit last Wednesday to protest their abysmal living conditions.

Signal brought almost 600 workers from India in 2006 to Pascagoula in Mississippi and its other facility in Texas, through Mumbai-based recruitment agent Dewan Consultants. Besides, Signal is reportedly recruiting more Indian workers through another Mumbai-based recruiting agent, S. Mansur and Company.

According to the ministry official, preliminary investigations found that while one of the agents had been registered with them, the other might not have been officially recruiting workers.

“We will get a clearer picture after we get the report,” he said.

Overseas Indian Affairs Minister Vayalar Ravi has already written to the Indian ambassador in the US, Ronen Sen, to investigate the claims of the Indian workers.

“The workers demand the US prosecute Signal for human trafficking and want the Indian government to punish recruiter Sachin Dewan (of Dewan Consultants),” Saket Soni, director of the New Orleans Workers’ Centre for Racial Justice, had told IANS Sunday.

“We also want Ravi to direct Dewan and his associates to refrain from contacting the workers’ families in India and intimidating them,” Sabulal Vijayan, a former employee of Signal and one of the rebelling workers’ leaders, said in a press release.

Signal has denied the charges in a statement claiming it spent over $7 million to house the workers.

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