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Labour ministry raises red flag over ‘illegal’ Chinese workers

The labour and employment ministry has taken strong exception to the growing number of Chinese semi-skilled workers...

Written by Smita Aggarwal | New Delhi |
May 27, 2009 1:16:28 am

The labour and employment ministry has taken strong exception to the growing number of Chinese semi-skilled workers and technicians illegally working in India after having received business visas. It has now taken up the issue with the ministry of home affairs and external affairs.

A top government official,on the condition of anonymity,told The Indian Express that the number of Chinese nationals who are in India on a business visa is currently estimated to be around 8,000 – 10,000. “Many are working in steel plants as semi-skilled workers or technicians in and around Jharkhand. We understand that a large number of such workers have come on business visa. A business visa does not allow them to engage in semi-skilled jobs,” the official said. The government has also received reports of illegal workers from east Asian countries like Malaysia.

When contacted,a Chinese embassy spokesperson denied knowledge of the matter. He said every year around 60,000 Chinese nationals visit India,one-third of them on business visa. “The number of Chinese working illegally in India would be very few,” the official added.

The business visa,on which it is said these nationals have arrived,is issued for up to five years,with a provision for multiple entries. Such a visa is issued by an Indian Embassy abroad and can be renewed or extended within India.

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On the other hand,for foreign nationals to work in India,they must obtain a residential permit from Foreigners Regional Registration Offices (FRRO) located in all major cities. In the case of smaller cities,permission from the principal police station is required. When contacted,FRRO sources denied having received complaints of such nature.

According to government officials,corrective action will be taken soon. “The labour and employment ministry has also communicated its views to the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion,” the official said.

When contacted,industry chamber Confederation of Indian Industry said the issue is serious and it has already taken cognisance of it. “We have sought a report from our member-companies in the areas where there are lots of Chinese workers,” said a CII executive.

Some of the turnkey projects of major industries require Chinese consultants and supervisors to come to the plant site. “It is one of the mechanisms through which illegal workers enter India,” said the official,while pointing out that the Indian embassies in China have been issuing visas without verifying details and running proper checks.

Two weeks ago,there was an outbreak of violence between Chinese workers and locals at a plant near Bokaro in Jharkhand. Electrocasting Steel Ltd,a listed company with a turnover of Rs 1,348 crore in 2007-08,has contracted work to a Chinese firm MS Limited for setting up a 3 million-tonne a year steel plant at Parbatpur near Bokaro and about 600 Chinese nationals are working on it.

Unlawful entry?

• Number of Chinese nationals in India on a business visa is estimated to be around 8,000 – 10,000

• Many Chinese working in steel plants as semi-skilled workers or technicians in and around Jharkhand. A large number of such workers are on business visa,which does not allow them to engage in semi-skilled jobs

• Some turnkey projects of major industries require Chinese consultants and supervisors to come to the plant site. This then becomes one of the mechanisms through which illegal workers enter India

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