Kollam: Indian workers land in trouble abroad often despite alerts by governments. Labourers and housemaids have bore torture and incarceration as they land up with vicious employers and job rackets. Often Indian agents are culpable for their predicament as myriad reports indicate. Intervention of social workers and government agencies comes in handy to save unlucky people and bring them back as happened in the case of Sunita, a native of Pound Mukku in Kallada East in Kerala's Kollam district.
Sunita is now back in her rented house at after her agonising days in the Gulf. Though re-united with her family she is yet to get over the distress and trauma of brutal work hours.
Amidst her days of torment, Sunita feels herself lucky to experience 'the three divine interventions' she confronted during the most crucial moments of her life. It was like a face-to-face with God when a Tamil woman handed her mobile to Sunita to call her relatives in India; when social worker Nandesh took all the pains to rescue her from her employer; and when Payyannur native bought her a food pack in Mumbai airport.
The need for money to meet the present day exigencies had pushed Sunita to look for a job in the Gulf. Back home after a two-month long ordeal, Sunita recounts here her story of torture and slavery in Oman.
I reached Dubai to work as a domestic help. From there my agent sold me to an Arab agent in Oman. I was taken to the Oman office that wore a terrifying look with each room housing several people from African countries who had come to work as housemaids like me. I was sent for work on the very next day of my arrival.
In a spot
My 'workplace' was a three-storey house which had around 60 rooms. A couple and two children lived there. I was supposed to clean the entire house. The toilets had to be wiped using hands. They provided me only lunch which I was not supposed to have it in the kitchen. They gave me a space outside the house to have food. A room on the third floor with no windows or bed and without much air circulation was my bedroom. My toilet was outside the house. This was a problem at nights. Life in that house was a hell, to say the least.
Despite the sufferings I was very much reluctant to reveal my plight to my children. After three days I went back to my employer and told him I could not stay there any longer. From there I was given the job in a new house where a couple and seven children lived. There the situation was even worse. I was not allowed to phone calls to my relatives in India.
The landlady physically assaulted me several times. However, her eldest daughter used to give me her phone to talk to my children. In the meantime, I had expressed my desire to my recruiter to go back to India, but he refused.
As the physical torture became unbearable I decided to flee, but not to the agent's office where I had seen workers being physically harassed many a time. One day I had the nerve to run away from the house and made my way to the police station. But unfortunately the police, instead of helping me, sent me back to my agency.
As expected the agency started thrashing me brutally. A Nigerian 'madam' at the office hit my head with a huge bottle. Even after I fell down she gave me continuous blows and kicked me on the back and locked me up in a room.
The people in the agency seized my phone. I continued to be in the room for four days. Then I was shifted to another room in the neighbouring building. It was more like a dark cellar with hardly any light. At times sun rays would seep in through a tiny hole on the ceiling. Two loaves of bread and water was all my day's meal. The ordeal continued for almost 15 days.
Freedom at last
One day a Tamil speaking woman whom I had seen at the agency's office came to see me. She handed me her phone and asked me to call my relatives in India. I could not believe my eyes, grabbed the phone and frantically called my daughter. This helped Seva group activist Nandesh to track down the number and locate the place of my stay. He took the initiative and did everything possible to rescue me. Nandesh personally met my Arab recruiting agent and asked him to relieve me, in return my agent demanded money. Nandesh freed me after paying him Rs 1.5 lakh. I reached the Indian embassy on May 3, and two days later I flew back to India.
Nandesh saw me off at the airport with a pack of chocolates and cash of Rs 2,000.
On reaching Mumbai airport I was like a fish out of water. Though I was starving I could not buy food owing to language barrier. Luckily I met a young man from Payyannur who bought me breakfast from the airport and gave his cell phone to contact my children.
Sunita broke down and choked at many instances while narrating her ordeal in Oman. Tears rolled down her cheeks as she fumbled for words.
With broken Gulf dreams she now has a lot of liabilities. She now has to find ways to repay Rs 12,000 that she had borrowed to meet her travel expenses. She has a long to-do list which includes a new house, marriage of elder daughter and education of younger child.