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Helpline for Indian blue collar workers

Helpline for Indian blue collar workers

It’s well intentioned, of course, but the launching of a 24 hour hotline for blue collar workers raises a few tricky questions about labour practices in the UAE.

November 24, 2010 5:01 by

Among the many highlights of the visit of Indian president Pratibha Patil to the UAE, the launching of the 24 hour helpline for blue collar Indian citizens working in the country caught the eye of Kipp. The call center, which was made active at seven in the evening on Tuesday, is located in Bur Dubai and is manned by more than a dozen staff, according to the report.

Upon calling the helpline at 800-INDIA (800 46342), distressed workers will have the option of speaking to someone in five different languages including English, Hindi, Malayalam, Telegu and Tamil. The center is also aiming to provide help to runaway housemaids and deserted housewives by providing psychological and legal assistance to those they support. A noble effort (though, in truth, Kipp is curious how efficient the service will be).

The move is undoubtedly a welcome one, but it does cast a light on the current shady treatment of blue-collar workers in the UAE. The helpline is the first of its kind in the country and is, in fact, funded and operated by the Indian government. For Kipp, that puts a harsh light on the UAE’s track record in this area. How does it reflect on the UAE, firstly that this phone line is needed, and secondly that another country has come in to set it up?

But we should be positive: the very existence of the phone line is a positive thing, even if the reasons for it are not. And through publicity of the line, yet more attention is drawn to the plight of some workers in the UAE. Human Rights Watch is reported to have recommended the Indian President use her visit to the Gulf to discuss the poor treatment of blue collar citizens in the Gulf. Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch said, “For too long, the Indian government has simply treated these workers as sources of remittance income.”

What do you think? Should responsibility for a helpline like this rest with the host country, or the home country?

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