(MENAFN - Khaleej Times) Thirty-five Indian and Bangladeshi workers who came to the UAE in the hope of good jobs have been left stranded without work, food or wages. Now residing in a cramped villa on Al Zahir Street in Ajman, the workers are employees of Sharjah-based sister companies, Qatar Technical Quality Company and Qatar Marine.
They were forced to stop work in November last year after the owners of the companies delayed payment of their salaries for six months. Most of the workers were employed as electricians and small time technicians.
Qatar Technical Quality Company was formed in 2003 by Indian nationals Suresh Ameri and Ravindranath Nair. However, when contacted by Khaleej Times, Ameri said that his business partner Nair went absconding with all the funds of the company, including salaries of the labourers, while Ameri was on leave last year. The workers have been living without wages for a little over two months. Last month, the electrical supply to the villa was disconnected, owing to non-payment of rent and electricity bills. Water supply will be disconnected soon, according to the workers. They have been living on food supplies and donations provided by organisations like Kerala Muslim Cultural Centre (KMCC), Aster Medical Group, and UAE Exchange.
Nirmal Debanth, a Bangladeshi national said: "I have been working for this company for a little over five years. The problem with late payment began last year. Almost all these workers have families depending on them. We have been living like this for months now and the company officials are turning a deaf ear to our problems."
The company pays the workers on an hourly basis: "We get paid Dh5 per hour. Most of us used to work for about 10 to 13 hours per day, which entitled us to somewhere between Dh1,200-1,300 per month. Of which, the company would deduct Dh200-400 stating accommodation and labour processing fees," said an Indian national and electrical technician Renjith Korameth.
After two months, a case was filed with the Sharjah Labour Authority; however, since they do not have the money to commute to these places, the case has not been followed up on. "Once, a few of us walked from our accommodation in Ajman to the Labour office in Sharjah at four in the morning, because we couldn't afford a taxi or bus fare," said another Bangladeshi worker Habib-ur-Rahman.
Their main source of help has been Hashim Mahmood, the Vice President of KMCC, Ajman and the owner of a cafeteria near the villa. "The living conditions of the workers are truly horrible. They sold a lot of their personal belongings a few months ago to make ends meet. Several of these workers have not been paid in over six months," said Mahmood. Due to the poor living conditions, some of the workers have also started falling ill.
Because the living conditions have been so bad, Rahman said: "We want to go back to our home country. All we want is for them to pay us off. Because of legal concerns, we cannot look for jobs elsewhere and our passports are with the company owners. Even if we want to leave the country, we cannot." One of the owners of the firm, Ameri, said he is in Dh200,000 worth of debt: "I have problems of my own. I have been double crossed by my partner. He has ran away with all the company's funds and has left the company in his son's name. I have been trying to contact them for the last two months and they have been completely avoiding me," said Ameri.
Khaleej Times made several attempts to get in touch with Nair, the other partner, but he refused to take calls. Ministry of Labour officials in Dubai were informed of the workerss' plight, but declined to comment.
By Dhanusha Gokulan