India seeking to resolve workers’ violence case in UAE

July 9th, 2008 - 8:20 pm ICT by IANS  

Dubai, July 9 (IANS) The Indian embassy in Abu Dhabi is in constant touch with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) authorities to resolve a case in which over 3,000 expatriate workers, a vast majority of them Indians, indulged in violence at a labour camp. “Our embassy is in constant touch with the UAE authorities who are in the process of identifying the real perpetrators of the violence,” India’s ambassador to the UAE Talmiz Ahmad told IANS from Abu Dhabi.

The violence occurred Friday night when some workers of the Al Hamra Construction Company in the emirate of Ras Al Khaimah got into a physical fight with the mess manager of the canteen.

According to sources, the workers were in an inebriated condition when they physically assaulted the mess manager.

When the situation got out of hand, company security personnel were called in but they proved to be inadequate as more workers had got involved in the incident.

The police also could not bring the situation under control as the agitating workers attacked and torched some police vehicles.

Eventually, the riot police had to be called in to bring the situation under control.

Following the incident, authorities detained a total of 3,147 workers. They are being lodged at two detention centres in Abu Dhabi, and one each in Dubai, Fujairah and Ras Al Khaimah.

“My understanding is that a small number of workers were actually behind the incident,” Ahmad said, adding that the incident snowballed into large-scale violence after other workers joined in.

Most of the detained workers hail from the states of Punjab, Tamil Nadu and Kerala in India.

Under UAE laws, workers found guilty of indulging in violence face deportation.

Strongly condemning the incident, the ambassador said: “We totally oppose all forms of violence regardless of the grievance. Such violence harms the image of the country (from where the workers come), hurts the interest of workers and harms the interest of a vast majority of workers who are not at all involved.”

In New Delhi, Overseas Indian Affairs Minister Vayalar Ravi called upon Indian workers in the Gulf not to indulge in violence.

“We cannot accept any kind of violence in the Gulf. I appeal to the Gulf workers (from India) not to resort to violence,” Ravi said at the opening session of the first consultation meeting of his ministry with state governments Tuesday.

“We are there to protect you. Please keep the honour of India. Do not complicate the situation,” he added.

Later, talking to reporters, the minister said the matter was now being handled by the UAE interior ministry.

“When we spoke to our counterparts in the (UAE) labour ministry, they told us that the matter was out of their hands and being dealt with the interior ministry as it is a law and order problem,” he said.

There are around 1.5 million expatriate Indians in the UAE and a large number of them work as contract labour in the booming construction industry.

Indians workers comprise 42.5 percent of the total labour force in the UAE and 65 percent of them are in the blue-collar category.

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