Back from Karbala city of Iraq on Sunday, an auto rickshaw driver, Harinder Singh from Ghudani Khurd village of Doraha, is all set to drive auto-rickshaw again in India.
Singh, 45, went to Iraq only a month ago and was promised a mason’s job in Marmara Construction company based in Turkey. However, following the militant onslaught in Iraq, the company left the country, handing it over to the Iraqi authorities leaving some 230 Indian employees in inhuman conditions.
Talking to Newsline, Singh said, “I left for Iraq last month on May 7. What I have experienced in just a month cannot be described in words. I must say driving an auto rickshaw in India is 1,000 times better than being a mason in Iraq. We were kept as masons but we did the job of a sweeper, labourer and what not.”
He added that “conditions of living in Iraq are inhuman, especially after the war broke out”. “Food was provided only once a day which included some leftover rice. On some days one or two slices of bread were given in the morning. Nothing more than this,” he said.
It was after an employee from the same company contacted helpline number started by Sangrur MP Bhagwant Mann from the Aam Aadmi Party that routes opened for them to come back. “Still, more than 200 Indians from Punjab, Andhra Pradesh and Haryana are stranded there. Five of us landed at Delhi airport late on Saturday after a US- based welfare society contacted us,” he said.
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Asked about salaries, he said, “In India I earned Rs 15,000 a month from auto rickshaw. I was offered $500 a month, almost double of what I earned here, and I decided to leave India. I spent Rs 1.5 lakh, all my savings to settle there but I have returned empty-handed. Company has absconded from Iraq without paying salaries,” he said.
He added that more than 50 people were stuffed into one room with 20 beds by the company. Having an aged father, wife and a two-year-old daughter, Singh said, “I am back as auto driver in Ludhiana now. At least here I am safe.”