Qatar: 761 Indian workers were killed from 2014 to 2016 while building the 2022 World Cup stadiums

Qatar: 761 Indian workers were killed from 2014 to 2016 while building the 2022 World Cup stadiums

in NEWS INTERNAZIONALI/News Uk

Ritubhan Gautam has wrote for “The News Minute” on the importance of India stepping up its efforts to protect its workers in Qatar, notorious because they live human rights violations, unsafe working conditions, squalid living conditions and confiscations of passports among others.

In April 2016, Jaleshwar Prasad, a 48-year-old Indian construction worker died of a heart attack at a construction site for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. In response to a Human Rights Watch query on the incident, the government office organizing the 2022 Football World Cup, stated that Prasad had fallen ill at the worksite that morning and died later that day due to cardiac arrest. It added that an investigation into Prasad’s death claimed that “work duties were not a contributory factor,” but did not explain who carried out this investigation, or how it arrived at this dubious conclusion.

But Jaleshwar Prasad is not alone because many Indian citizens work in similar abusive and life-threatening conditions at construction sites across Qatar. Official data released by the Embassy of India in Doha shows that 761 Indian workers died in Qatar between January 2014 and September 2016. However, the Qatari government continues to be non-transparent and refuses to reveal the cause of death in most of these cases.

Three years from November, the World Cup will open in Qatar, with a high cost in Indian lives. The issue of non-compliance with labour rights in Qatar has been long-standing and well documented by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. The Qatari government has not done enough to monitor and curb abusive practices and hold employers accountable.

A 2014 report that the Qatari government commissioned from the international law firm DLA Piper noted that Qatar attributed a “seemingly” high number of worker deaths to cardiac arrest, a general term that does not specify the cause of death. The authorities have ignored key recommendations of its own report commissioned from DLA Piper. The present Qatar law doesn’t mandate autopsies or post-mortem examinations in cases of so-called “sudden deaths”.

The Qatari government hasn’t implemented the recommendation of the report to reform this law which mandates autopsies for identifying the cause of death of these workers. Qatari authorities have not commissioned an independent study into the “seemingly” high number of fatalities attributed to cardiac arrest. Despite assurances of reforms from the Qatari Government, not much has changed on the ground reported “The News Minute”.

Exploitation and abuse of migrant workers are pervasive problems in Qatar. In 2016, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited a worker’s camp in downtown Doha, he assured them that he would raise their grievances with the Qatari government and would work with them to bring change. Despite the promises made by both these governments on reforms in labour laws, no concrete steps have been taken by the Qatari officials to protect the rights of these workers.

There are 6,30,000 Indian nationals who constitute the Indian diaspora in Qatar working as labourers and living in labour camps. Approximately 95 percent of the labour force in Qatar is migrant workers, out of which more than 30 percent are Indian nationals. These migrant Indian workers are from impoverished backgrounds and have moved to Qatar to support their families by working as low-wage laborers.

There has been a steep increase in the influx of migrant Indian workers since 2010 when Qatar won the hosting rights for the 2022 Football World Cup, and it is expected to peak in the next two years. In its bid to develop showcase stadiums and infrastructure for the World Cup, Qatar employs approximately 40 percent of the migrant workers in the construction sector.

With the number of migrant workers scaling up, India should include its diaspora’s concerns in all bilateral discussions with Qatar. The Indian government should actively engage with the Qatari government and insist that Qatar carry out investigations into workers’ deaths and make comprehensive data publicly available.

India is best positioned to demand that FIFA and the Qatari government change legislation to allow complete removal of exit permits by ensuring employers do not use tactics such as passport confiscation and arbitrary travel bans. Also, the Indian government should insist that Qatar provide rights to employees for wilful change or termination of a job without the requirement of employers’ permission or ‘no-objection certificate.’ On the domestic front, the Indian government should ensure strict legal action against recruiting firms in India that mislead workers on wages and debt.  Indian citizens should not have to pay to work. Safeguarding the rights of the Indian diaspora in Qatar is the duty and responsibility of the Indian government.

 

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