US government ‘closely following’ Indian workers’ case


Washington : The US State Department says it is “closely following” the case of some 100 Indian workers who have alleged that they were lured to come to the US by false promises of permanent jobs.

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“We have referred the workers’ complaints to the appropriate government agencies,” the department stated in response to a question about if it was involved with or assisting protesting workers from India and if there had been any diplomatic communication on the matter.

The workers have alleged that they came to work for a Mississippi-based firm, Signal International, on a 10-month work visa after allegedly paying $20,000 to a contracted job recruiter.

“While we are following this matter closely, the Department of State does not comment on specific visa cases, nor can we take a position in a legal dispute between an employer and an employee,” it said, adding: “We have referred the workers’ complaints to the appropriate government agencies”.

The Indian workers had late last month taken their protest to the White House where they raised slogans and tore up photocopies of their H-2B visas in a symbolic rejection of the guest worker programme.

American NGO groups backing the workers argue that unless the H-2B programme is overhauled, companies like Signal International will exploit foreign workers and subject them to conditions of bonded labour – a charge that has been denied by the Mississippi firm.

Coming to Washington, after a nine-day satyagraha, or “journey for justice” from New Orleans, the workers had also staged a march to the Indian Embassy after a protest rally at nearby Dupont Circle.

During a three-hour-meeting with Indian Ambassador Ronen Sen, they demanded a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into their case. Sen gave the workers a patient hearing and promised to take up their grievances but only though appropriate and established channels.