Despair pushes Gulf returnees to suicide

By Mohammed Shafeeq, IANS

Hyderabad : Dasari Gangaram from Nadipally village of Andhra Pradesh had borrowed Rs.150,000 from moneylenders to go to the Gulf two years ago for a job.

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It was only after landing in Dubai that he realised he had been cheated by an unscrupulous travel agent. He did not find the promised job in a construction company and all his dreams were shattered. His four-member family borrowed another Rs.100,000 to meet household expenses.

He came back with the help of the Indian embassy and, unable to clear the loans, he along with his wife Limbavva, a 30-year-old cancer patient, committed suicide by consuming pesticide a few days ago.

About 50 Gulf returnees have reportedly committed suicide in the last three months. The majority of suicides took place in the backward Telangana region. They were among 45,000 illegal immigrants repatriated by UAE to the southern state.

Take the case of Sunkari Lingam, also from Nizamabad district who had left for Dubai last year on a visit visa. He too had to return in July. As moneylenders began hounding him to clear a loan of Rs.200,000, he committed suicide.

Many small farmers and agricultural labourers from the drought hit villages in Telangana region had migrated to the Middle East in recent years. With agriculture no longer a remunerative activity, small farmers sold their lands and borrowed money from moneylenders to go abroad but fell into the trap of unscrupulous agents.

The suicides by Gulf returnees are the latest to hit the state, which has the dubious distinction of one of the highest number of suicides by farmers and weavers in recent years. More than 5,000 farmers and weavers have committed suicide in the state during thelast seven years. The majority of them were from the backward Telangana region.

However, the state government disputes that 50 people committed suicide. After denying any suicides by Gulf returnees for the last few days, the government Thursday admitted that 10 people have ended their lives.

“We have information from Nizamabad and Karimnagar districts that 10 Gulf returnees committed suicide during the last few days, unable to bear the burden of debts,” said Minister for Energy Mohammed Ali Shabbir, who is also the chairman of the NRI Cell set up by the state government.

He, however, termed as ‘exaggerated’ the reports that 50 Gulf returnees have committed suicide.

The government is yet to take a decision on compensation to the families of those who committed suicide.

Shabbir, who monitored repatriation of illegal immigrants and also visited Dubai early this month to bring back stranded immigrants, said so far 45,000 people have returned. The government arranged air tickets for those who had no money.

Shabbir said the government was conducting job fairs for the Gulf returnees and more than 11,000 have been selected for construction companies.

“The government will also provide loans to them under the pavala vaddi scheme for self-employment,” he said. The government provides loans at 25 paise interest to women’s self-help groups and others under the scheme.

The minister pointed out that the government had already declared a moratorium on the recovery of loans from Gulf returnees for two years. He said action would be taken against the moneylenders who were harassing Gulf returnees.

He claimed that cases had been already booked against three unscrupulous agents and the district superintendents of police were asked to take action against such agents.

Opposition parties and NGOs, however, feel that the government’s actions are inadequate. Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS), which is seeking separate statehood to the Telangana region, has demanded a special package for them.

India’s Ambassador to the UAE Talmiz Ahmad had recently told IANS that Andhra Pradesh was the biggest source of illegal migration from India to the UAE. The maximum applicants for the Gulf nation’s recent amnesty scheme for illegal workers were from workers of this southern Indian state.

There are around 1.5 million Indian workers in UAE, many of them working as contract workers in the booming construction industry.