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Duped Indian workers make Singapore streets their home


Singapore : Jobless and penniless Indian workers have been living in streets here for as long as a year, according to news reports.

About 50 men have turned a road in Singapore’s “Little India” district into a makeshift camp, gathering at night to sleep and share food, The Straits Times reported Monday.

Several told the newspaper that they paid between 1,500 Singapore dollars ($1,094) and 4,000 Singapore dollars ($2,898) to agents in India, who promised them “nice jobs” in the city-state.

On arrival, some found there were no jobs waiting. Others, unaware of regulations, were tricked into entering on social visit passes, which do not allow them to work.

Many resorted to working illegally, and were arrested, jailed and caned, the report said.

On release, the Indians said they were not allowed to go home because they are needed to help with Ministry of Manpower investigations.

“The ministry ensures that all investigations are conducted promptly,” a spokesman was quoted as saying. “Some cases may take a longer investigation period due to the nature and complexity of the case.”

He said foreigners needed to assist with investigations are allowed to work under a temporary job scheme, but gave no details.

Civic groups touched by the workers’ plight have been handing out food packets several nights a week. The Indian embassy said it assists workers who seek help on a “case-by-case basis”.

“I want to go home,” said Meghanathan Panchatchasam, from the state of Tamil Nadu who has been sleeping in alleyways for four months.

“I hate Singapore,” the 33-year-od man told the newspaper. “My life here is wasted.”