Indian workers to get smart cards

New ‘smart’ system will be introduced within the next month and is aimed at protecting workers from exploitation.

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By  Conrad Egbert Published  January 21, 2006

The Government of India will introduce ‘smart cards’ for expatriate construction labourers working in the Middle East, within the next month. “The Indian Government has taken this step to protect construction workers in the Middle East from any kind of exploitation and to keep a track of them,” said K Kumar, convener of the Indian Community Welfare Committee. “A smart card is like an identity card with an electronic chip lodged in it that will contain personal details similar to that included in a passport, including the passport number, the person’s blood group and the name of the employer.” Most workers in the Gulf are forced to hand in their passports to their employers, which in turn allows the employers to use this as a bargaining point. “All visas that will be processed through the office of the Protector General of Immigrants will be issued with smart cards. Other categories are still under consideration for the electronic card but for the construction workers we thought it best to introduce it as soon as possible,” he said. The Protector General of Immigrants issues all visas under the unskilled category, including those for construction workers and domestic workers. “The smart card is a personal item and will be the property of the worker whose name it bears. No company will be allowed to withhold the smart card,” he added. Workers cannot travel on the card and will require their passport at immigration, but it is understood that the authorities are also considering making it possible for workers to travel back to India on the smart card if a crisis arises. In October last year, the Satwa 87 were left in a state of limbo, when their employer refused to pay them their salaries or repatriate them.

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