No joyride

The plight of the Nepali labourers working in the Gulf region and other Asian countries is not getting any better. While thousands are either compelled to work under unfavourable conditions and are denied even the salary as per their contracts, many are languishing in the jails of those countries. In Qatar, some 400 Nepali workers are still behind bars. Although 301 of the 701 jailed in that country have been freed and sent back home, little is known about when the remaining ones would be released. On top of that, it has been reported that the prisoners are kept handcuffed all the time and given only plain bread to eat. The workers had reached Qatar to work for the Doha-based Al-Huda Engineering Works and were thrown behind bars for staging a month-long agitation demanding better facilities in the workplace and payment of salary according to the contract.

It is not a crime to fight for one’s right. But sadly, in that part of the world, labour rights are not fully secured and anti-demonstration laws are stringent. If the management is not on the side of the workers, they face harsh punishment. Those agitating in Qatar are also accused of leaking details of the agitation to the media. The Nepal Government and its embassy in Doha must act promptly and do whatever is necessary for the release of the hapless workers. As a long-term solution, the government must move towards securing a labour agreement, similar to the one being signed with South Korea, with the governments of Gulf countries.