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How migrating to Gulf countries has helped rural folk

In Beerpur village of Jagtial district, D Narsiah, 61, works in agriculture fields. He owns around two acres of farm land acquired at a cost of Rs 3 lakh that he managed to save after working in a Gulf country for three decades.

“I earned sufficiently. I married-off my four daughters and constructed a small house. I worked in different Gulf countries as a mason. Now, if I get an opportunity I will go again and work there,” Narsaiah told Thousands of men like him from the erstwhile unified districts of Karimnagar and Nizamabad go to foreign countries to work in companies engaged in construction work

The trend to work in the Gulf started in the early 1980’s when some locals from these districts got in touch with manpower agents in Bombay (Mumbai) and through them moved over to Saudi Arabia and other oil rich nations for work.

“Agriculture was the only work here. Due to famines and poor rains there was no farming activity for seasons in row. No work meant no money and food, so we thought the Gulf was a better option and families here could get two square meals a day,” recalled Subbaiah, who returned to India after spending ten years in Saudi Arabia where he ran a tea stall.

Back home now, he does the same business in his native village of Suddapally. Around 400 people from this village are working in foreign countries including Saudi Arabia, UAE, Iran, Iraq Oman, Qatar and other Persian Gulf countries.

The story of Ramiya, an undergraduate second year student is one of the many the children from Koratala mandal share. His father works in a ‘foreign’ country (Gulf). “He visits us once every two years. We are happy whenever he visits because we travel to Hyderabad to pick up from the airport and after staying for a month or 45 days he returns. He has worked in Saudi Arabia for the past 12 years and with the money he sends I did schooling along with siblings and now doing a degree course from a private college in the town,” he said.

The men are paid anywhere between Rs. 40,000 to Rs. 50,000 to the local sub agents who arranged passports and took the candidates to main agents in Mumbai for interviews. “Interviews were held in Hyderabad and even local district headquarters and candidates selected. Certain jobs required us to visit Madras (Chennai) and attend interviews – oral and practical,” recalls S Raju, a villager from Beerpur who worked in Bahrain for 10 years.

In Beerpur village of Jagtial of the total 5,000 population about 20 per cent is staying in various Gulf countries and East Asia countries and working on big projects – mostly construction. Women in most of the mandals roll out beedis and supplement the family income and the earnings are used to partly fund the travel to Gulf countries. The remaining money is mostly arranged from money lenders.

A police official who worked previously in the erstwhile districts of Karimnagar and Nizamabad in the 1990s said Naxalism was at its peak in the 80’s and 90’s in the region.

“Family elders did not want the young men to tread the wrong path and join the movement and lose their lives. They were scared of the late night police raids and interrogations or the Naxal dalam visits to the villages and programs. So the elders persuaded the youth to leave for the Gulf and work there. They took loans from local money lenders and sent the men away to foreign countries to lead a decent and good life. In every family at least one person had gone and worked abroad,” he explained.

In fact, the local police in a few mandals of the Karimnagar districts were on such good terms with such families and through them arranged to acquire Rado watches, foreign liquor and other goods from foreign Persian Gulf for their colleagues, friends and families.

A senior journalist working with a vernacular daily and a native of Karimnagar said the craze for Gulf countries among the youth is rampant in the region. “There are manpower recruitment agencies in the districts of Jagtial, Karimnagar, Nizamabad and Kamareddy, and several sub-agents who work for a commission of Rs. 5,000 on every candidate. Youngsters approach the agents and through them continue to go abroad for work,” he said, unwilling to be named.

Bheem Reddy, a Migrants Rights activist who is fighting for the compensation of workers who died or suffered injuries in worksite accidents and related migrant issues pointed out from every mandal in the Nizamabad and Karimnagar people are working in the Middle East for at least four decades.

“There are more rags to riches stories than bad stories from the Gulf. Conditions are better, it is local agents who cheat the people and here the things are to be tackled and redressed. Although, visa is free of any charges, the agents charge money from them,” he said.

A police official from Karimnagar, who did not want to be named, said the police are watchful of manpower agents who previously got arrested for duping poor and illiterate people. “If we get a complaint, cases will be registered and action initiated,” he told.