July 23, 2004
Despite the serious threat to life, numerous jobs-seekers in India are still trying to get placements in Iraq. Many of them make their way through shadowy recruitment agents based in Mumbai who liaise for Middle-Eastern firms seeking skilled labour.
Even the three Indian truck drivers, who were kidnapped yesterday, had secured their Iraq assignment though the Mumbai-based Oman Agency, though an employee at the company’s Nariman Point office told The Indian Express that there was no senior staff present to provide more information.
Despite restrictions placed by the government, estimates suggest that over 1,500 applications for Kuwait and Iraq are screened every month by a handful of agencies in Mumbai alone.
The Protector General of Emigration had recently slapped notices on such recruitment agents, warning them against hiring ex-servicemen for security duties in Iraq. Since then, most of them have found ways to circumvent the rules.
‘‘Several placement agencies in Mumbai indirectly advertise jobs in Iraq. The trick is to announce ‘Vacancies in Kuwait’ for jobs like cooks, waiters, drivers, mechanics, security guards, etc,’’ said a job consultant.
Recruitment agents are rarely known to present a clear job profile or retain any contact after a candidate takes off for his chosen destination.
‘‘They are also deceptive to an extent because sometimes you don’t know what firm or job you are headed for,’’ said James K John, 34, who recently returned from Fallujah.
Indians, who have made their way back home after short stints in besieged towns such as Fallujah, Basra and Al Mosul, also repeatedly stress on the risks involved, regardless of the nature of the work.
John, who had worked as a waiter for a Kuwait-based catering company, Damac, said, ‘‘We used to hear bomb blasts and rocket attacks while preparing buffet meals for American soldiers. I just felt it was not worth it.’’
John, who had applied through a Mumbai-based placement cell, Jasper International, resigned in April, but could return only in July.
Wenster D’Souza, 22, also has a similar tale to narrate. ‘‘I had applied through Jasper to work as a waiter in the Iraqi air base at Al Mosul. I knew about the risks, but went because of the high salary of Rs 16,000 per month to work as a waiter for KBR catering company,’’ D’Souza said.
His company also gave him a very high life insurance cover of Rs 15 lakh, as per the rules laid down for immigrant workers in Iraq. He was among the 130 selected last year out of 300 applicants from all over India.
When The Indian Express had contacted Jasper International last week, its Senior Manager S Fernandes said: ‘‘We do get applications for jobs in Kuwaiti companies. However, if these Indians are then sent over to Iraq then we do not know about it.’’
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