No truth in Malaysia suspending hiring of Indian workers – minister

By P. Vijian, NNN-Bernama

New Delhi : Malaysia has not suspended the recruitment of workers from India, Malaysian Works Minister S. Samy Vellu says.

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Refuting a news agency report Tuesday that Malaysia had suspended the hiring of workers from India, Samy Vellu said he had contacted Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and the Home (Interior) Ministry secretary-general today to get a clearer picture on the issue.

The issue caused a controversy at the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (Indian Disapora) conference being held here. Samy Vellu is leading a Malaysian delegation to attend the conference.

Speaking to a horde of reporters on the sidelines of the conference, Samy Vellu said: “I spoke to the Prime Minister and the Home Ministry secretary-general. The statement is not true. There is no truth to the Reuters’ report.”

Concurring with Samy Vellu, India’s Overseas Affairs Minister, Vayalar Ravi, who is also attending the conference, said there was no truth to the report.

Earlier today, a Reuters report from Kuala Lumpur, citing unnamed Home Ministry officials, said Malaysia had suspended the recruitment of workers from India and Bangladesh, a ban that it said came into effect on Dec 31.

Earlier, Vayalar said India was keen to seal a labour agreement with Malaysia to safeguard the welfare of Indians employed in Malaysia, especially those employed in the informal sector.

Noting that an estimated five million Indian workers were now employed abroad, mostly in the Gulf states and in Malaysia, he said that in order to safeguard their welfare, the Indian government had signed bilateral instruments with the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Kuwait and Qatar on labour employment.

“A similar agreement in principle with Malaysia has already been reached and I hope to be able to sign it soon. I’m confident that we will conclude and sign similar bilateral labour agreements with Oman and Bahrain this year,” Vayalar said at the Privasi Bharatiya Divas here.

Indian workers are the third largest group of foreign workers in Malaysia, numbering almost 140,0000, and mostly employed in restaurants.

India is a major labour exporting country in South Asia besides Nepal and Bangladesh, and in 2006 Indian migrant workers around the globe remitted home a staggering 90 billion Ringgit (one USD = about 3.28 Ringgit).

In his address to the conference, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said the government would start a nationwide skills upgrading training programme for potential migrant workers.

“The scheme targets training of nearly two lakh (200,000) emigrant workers over the next five years. This will help create a strong cadre of highly skilled workers,” he said.

Close to 1,500 delegates from nearly 50 countries are participating in the three-day annual Indian Diaspora conference

Speaking to journalists after the opening of the conference, Samy Vellu suggested that India send more of its education experts overseas.

“India has a large number of experts in the education field and it should disperse them overseas to help other countries. This will help students who can’t afford to come here to study,” he said.