Justice at last for poor workers
I am thrilled to read that the Indian government is finally taking steps to safeguard the legal rights of its citizens in the Gulf.
Although it is long overdue, I seriously hope establishing legal aid offices attached to embassies will redress an unenviable situation a lot of migrant workers find themselves in when they run into trouble with the law.
Many of those workers are uneducated, poor, confused and very scared, even though they may have done nothing wrong.
They find themselves in trouble because of their own naivety or thanks to unscrupulous employers, who think they own those people because they have agreed to leave their countries and work here as their 'slaves'.
In life, there is nothing which infuriates me more than people who don't stand up for their rights.
But there is nothing much they can do when there is no one to guide them and walk them through the illogical maze of our legal systems.
The situation is simple, people cannot do much about their lost rights when they don't know what they are, to begin with.
The decision to provide legal advice to destitute workers who may land in trouble with the law because of lack of awareness, or because they have been abused, is probably the best development that has happened to address the condition of Indians in the region in a very long time.
I hope that other governments will follow the lead and develop similar schemes for their migrant workers.
It hurts me every time I see someone in trouble with the law, with no proper legal support or guidance, which invariably means that he or she will inevitably be denied justice.
The modern legal system is full of loopholes and it is only people with the wits and means to get legal advice before it is too late who get a better deal.
A few months ago, I was approached by an Indian friend to help another Indian in a situation with his 'sponsor'.
He explained the problem and I asked him to go to his embassy and complain. There was nothing I felt we could do as a newspaper, as it was an individual case.
The worker had his share of woes and the employer was ready with his counterattack, which as is the norm in such cases involve accusing the worker of stealing an X amount of money from the company.
The fact that the sponsor had extorted tens of thousands of dinars from the poor Indian since illegally renting his commercial registration in 1997, was irrelevant, because the law is tipped in favour of the influential Bahraini, who had his tracks covered.
The victim had pumped almost BD60,000 to set up the business, money which he had lost overnight following a disagreement with his sponsor, who had wanted more money out of the deal.
With no legal advice or support and the looming threat of imprisonment, the victim signed over all his rights to the sponsor, in exchange for a return ticket home!
This disgusting situation repeats itself ever so often in Bahrain.
I hope embassies will show more resolve to help their citizens, who are cheated of the hard labour and forced to give up their rights, just because there is no one to stand beside them.