(MENAFN - Khaleej Times) Thirty-five workers of a company, whose owners have not paid their salaries for two months following a disagreement between them and misappropriation of company funds, are still clueless about their future.
One of the two owners of Qatar Technical Contracting now say he is ready to pay the salaries of "his" workers by March 15. In fact, this person named Harikrishnan Nair is not the original owner but the son of Ravindranath Nair, who handed over the business to himbefore leaving for India.
The other Indian partner, Suresh Ameri, blames Ravindranath for the plight of the workers who live in a villa without electricity and no money to buy essentials.
One positive development is that several people and organisations have come forward with donations of food and other supplies after reading an article about the workers' plight in Khaleej Times titled 'It's a tough life for 35 abandoned workers' on March 4.
Hashim Mahmood, vice-president of the Kerala Muslim Cultural Centre (KMCC), Ajman, is a beacon of hope for the workers. The owner of a small cafeteria near the villa on Al Zahir Street, Mahmood has been helping these men with rations of rice and vegetables: "A few people have come forward to help them out with food, gas, clothes and other amenities," added Mahmood.
Reema Asnani, an artist based in Dubai, made a donation of items like rice, sugar, pulses and a few other necessities: "After reading the article, I visited the villa. The men are living in a very bad state. They are living without electricity. The men are using candles. I am willing to pay the electricity bills," said Asnani who made these donations out of personal interest.
"I was very happy to do such a thing and it touched my heart. The workers didn't have any money for transportation and they were getting to places by foot," she added.
Partners turn foes
Suresh Ameri and Ravindranath Nair are currently pointing fingers at each other when the question of paying and relieving the workers was raised. Earlier, when Ameri was contacted by Khaleej Times, he said that his business partner Ravindranath Nair went absconding with all the funds of the company, including salaries of the labourers, while he was on leave last year.
However, Ravindranath says he has left the responsibility of running the business to his son, Harikrishnan.
"The workers registered a complaint last month. I will pay them by March 15. Only six of the workers (living) in the villa work for Qatar Technical Quality Company, the others work for Qatar Marine, which is not my responsibility," said Harikrishnan, implying that these are two companies.
He cut the call as more questions were raised about the condition of the workers and refused to respond to calls and messages later.
According to Ameri, all investments made in the company were funded by him: "In 2003, I invested Dh98,000 towards the company. But he (Ravindranath) was the administrator and we made an agreement to distribute the profits equally (between us)," he said.
Originally, the company was named Qatar Marine, but they registered a new company in the name of Qatar Techinical Contracting in 2007 after their sponsor was blacklisted, he said.
"Last December, I had to go to India in connection with my daughter's marriage. It was then that Ravindranath made a power of attorney and gave his son all rights to run the company without informing me. Using the power of attorney, Harikrishnan renewed the licence of Qatar Technical and and pocketed all profits made by Qatar Marine. Ravindranath Nair has vanished from the scene since then. A few months back, Harikrishnan informed me that he would pay the workers, but he still hasn't done so and now he is refusing to take my calls. The father and son have cheated me of Dh200,000 and because a case has been registered in the labour court, I might even go to jail," said Ameri.
According to Ameri, the financial strain has put his health at risk as well.
Earlier last week, Hashik T. K., a lawyer representing Harikirishnan, when contacted by Khaleej Times, used threatening phrases and said: "This is none of your business."
Officials of the Ministry of Labour have been unavailable for comment even after repeated attempts.
No respite for workers
In fact, the 35 hapless workers have been caught in the power tussle between the owners. Five years ago, Bangladeshi national Sushil Chandradas left his job of a teacher back home and came to the UAE with the hope of making it big. His family coughed up about 200,000 Bangaladeshi Taka (roughly Dh9,400) for his visa, ticket, and other expenses. Today, Chandradas lives in the overcrowded villa with the other workers, who have been denied their basic wages, food, electricity and water. The workers have been living without wages for a little over two months. Last month, the electricity 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.
Renjith Korameth, an Indian worker, said: "My passport is with the company officials. I would really like to go back home, but I cannot do anything till they relieve me."
By Dhanusha Gokulan