58 Indian labourers ‘jailed’ in the Maldives

The Hindu, Tuesday 2 May 2006

Twelve of them are from Kerala; under arrest for a week

ALAPPUZHA. Fifty-eight Indian labourers, including 12 Keralites, employed by a private firm on the Fesdu Fun island in the Republic of Maldives, have been jailed following incidents of violence between Indian labourers and natives of the island.

Sources said there was strong resentment among the local people against employing Indian workers.

The labourers have been under arrest for a week now, said their relatives in Vallikunnam and Chengannur.

Efforts on to release them

C.S. Sujata, Mavelikkara M.P., who confirmed the incident, said efforts were on to secure the release of the workers and ensure their safe return to India.

Talking to The Hindu , Ms Sujata said she had contacted Union Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs Vayalar Ravi, who promised to take necessary steps to secure their release.

She said the Indian Embassy in Maldives had contacted the officials of the Maldives and got an assurance from them on the release of the arrested.

According to information available, of the 12 labourers from Kerala, seven are from Vallikunnam panchayat in Alappuzha district and the neighbouring panchayat of Tazhava in Kollam district.

Five labourers are from Chengannur.

The labourers recruited from the State are mostly construction workers.

Denied food

According to their relatives, the workers were recruited by Universal group, a firm based on Fesdu Fun island four months ago. They alleged that some of the Indian labourers had been put in cellars during the first few days and had been denied food. Later, they were shifted to better prisons.

Though the relatives of the arrested had remained calm following an assurance given to them by the MP, the news of the killing of an Indian engineer Suryanarayana by Taliban in Afghanistan created anxiety among them.

Ms. Sujata said there was no reason for panic as the formalities for the release and return of the arrested were being completed.