VIDEO: Stranded Indian worker in plea to return home
Sat, 15 Sep 2018
By Raji Unnikrishnan, Pictures: Sadiq Marzooq
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EXPATRIATE associations have joined forces to support an Indian man who has been living in a dilapidated cabin without electricity for nearly six months.
Vinod Kumar has been working legally in Bahrain for 27 years, but when his visa expired in March and he attempted to return home to Kerala he was informed that he had a travel ban imposed on him.
He reportedly owes BD350 to a telecom company for unpaid instalments for a mobile phone.
Since then he has been living in a rundown cabin in A’ali and taking up odd jobs to survive.
The 65-year-old has no legal residency, but has a valid passport, CPR and a driver’s licence.
The GDN spoke to Mr Kumar yesterday when representatives from expat association Vishwakala Samskarika Vedi and the General Trade Union (GTU), which operates under the General Federation of Bahrain Trade Unions, visited him.
His appeal was brought to the attention of the community when an Indian national, Shiju Venugopal, saw him at the Isa Town bus stop last week.
“I had no job or visa and was wandering every day seeking some help or food, but my health was not doing well,” said Mr Kumar.
“Like a God-sent messenger Shiju came into my life last week.
“He helped me return to this cabin, which belongs to the family of my first employer, who seeing my plight, had agreed (six months ago) that I could sleep here.
“There were no air conditioner or toilet facilities in this cabin, and I knew I was going to die.
“I have been in Bahrain for 27 years and unfortunately in such a plight, and at the mercy of others, all I want is to go home and see my wife before I die.
“If I die here before that I don’t want my body to be sent home.”
Mr Kumar said he arrived in Bahrain as a driver for a contracting company, where he worked for 25 years.
After his employer’s death he took up a driver’s job with another company.
In March this year, his contract and work visa ended and upon attempting to return home he was informed that he had a travel ban imposed on him.
“Five years ago I purchased an iPhone from (a telecom firm) and made a down payment of BD150,” he explained.
“Later I could not pay my instalments as I lost my job and the company told me I had to pay BD350 as fine.
“How can I pay that amount when I am dying without food?”
Meanwhile, Mr Venugopal, who is a member of Vishwakala Samskarika Vedi and was part of the group that visited Mr Kumar yesterday, said he stepped in to help due to the appalling living conditions.
He said the group of social workers has installed an air conditioning unit in the cabin, and are working with authorities to lift the travel ban and send him back home.
“He was shivering in the corner of the bus stop and I knew he was sick, so I spoke to him and realised he was from Kerala,” said Mr Venugopal.
“He broke down as he explained his situation and I came with him to this cabin and was shocked to see the appalling living conditions.
“He is educated and this I believe made him more embarrassed to face people or ask for help.
“I reached out to all social workers so that we can help him to reach his family.
“We are also cleaning the place as well and have fixed an air conditioner.”
He added that he has also reached out to the Bahrain Keraleeya Samajam (BKS) and the Indian Community Relief Fund (ICRF), which have pledged assistance along with the GTU.
“As we are aware, the BKS, ICRF and other social associations have stepped in to support, and we as a trade union for expats will back them on the legal side,” said GTU general secretary Suresh Shankaran.
Officials from the Indian Embassy could not be reached for comment yesterday.