24/7 helpline for Indian workers is a hit, already Sajila Saseendran
26 November 2010 Mir Liyaqat Ali’s 15-year-old son, Ibrahim, was hit by a speeding car on November 7 and suffered a femur fracture. His right thighbone broke into two and he underwent two surgeries, the second one on Wednesday.
The driver of the car, which hit Ibrahim, is out on bail and Ali has been in the dark about the legal procedures to make a claim for the damages. When he read about the helpline of Indian Workers’ Resource Centre launched by the visiting Indian President Pratibha Devisingh Patil, Ali rang up the toll-free number 800 INDIA (80046342). “I was given a reference number and they said that they will get back to me at the earliest after consulting a legal expert. They were very nice to me,” he told Khaleej Times.
Devoted toll-free number for Indian expats
Indian expatriates needing help anytime now have a lifeline. All they need to do is call the toll-free number 800 India.
Several Indian expatriates like Ali have sought the help from the Resource Centre since its launch on Tuesday evening. Minutes after the helpline number was announced, a person who was identified as J. Jayakrishnan rang up the centre to ask for procedures to follow in the case of a damaged passport.
It was the beginning of a flurry of calls to IWRC, an initiative of the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs (MOIA) to offer a 24/7 helpline and legal, financial and psychological counselling services to Indian expatriates, especially the unskilled and semi-skilled workers.
Amjad Auzam of VFS Global, which is running the Centre, said over 400 calls were received by Thursday evening. “Based on the statistics we collect over these initial days, we will consider increasing the number of agents attending the calls after consulting the Embassy and the Consulate.”
He said that the walk-in counter which functions from 3pm to 7pm daily at the centre in Bank Street in Dubai also received a handful of workers with miscellaneous petitions on the first two days.
Dr K. Elangovan, counsellor (Community Affairs) at the Indian Embassy in Abu Dhabi, said the initial response to the centre was “fantastic.”
“We hope the members of the community will also make use of the information provided on the centre’s website — http://www.iwrc-uae.com. The FAQ section on the site answers about 170 questions. These are pertaining to complaints that we regularly receive from people. We have formulated them into points and legally vetted them after consulting lawyers,” said Dr Elangovan, who is also in charge of monitoring the operations of IWRC for the Embassy.
Step-wise information related to passport and visa services, death formalities, emergency certificates, workers and housemaids have been given in the FAQ section.
According to Dr A Didar Singh, secretary in the MOIA, lack of awareness about the legal procedures and services is one of the biggest problems being faced by Indian workers. Secondly, they have individual problems pertaining to employment, salary disbursement, living conditions, financial issues and family problems.
These issues will be discussed during awareness classes to be conducted by the IWRC. “The campaign will begin from December 15. Our plan is to conduct at least two sessions on every Friday and hold about 10 sessions in different emirates in a month. From January, VFS Global will also take charge of the Shelter Home for maids and domestic workers run by the Indian Consulate in Dubai,” said Dr Elangovan.
The president also launched a website of the centre — www.iwrc-uae.com.
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