Workers Return Home From Iraq With Harrowing Tales To Tell
Workers returning from Iraq have harrowing tales to tell. Madan Mohan Mallick (28) of Nandininagar village in Kendrapada district, a plumber who landed safely in Bhubaneswar recently swore he would never return to the troubled gulf country
Around ten workers from Odisha including five of Kendrapada district who fled Iraq after years of toil have reached their villages in Kendrapada district on 16th July. They left the war-ravaged gulf country with empty pockets and vowed never to return. The hasty departure marks the close of a bitter chapter in their lives.
Workers returning from Iraq have harrowing tales to tell. Madan Mohan Mallick (28) of Nandininagar village in Kendrapada district, a plumber who landed safely in Bhubaneswar recently swore he would never return to the troubled gulf country. “I left Iraq with nothing. I incurred debt last year of Rs 1.5 lakh and paid the amount to a New Delhi-based broker for the plane ticket and working visa. Now, I don’t know how to pay it back. I came back with only the shirt on my back. Now the so-called ‘promised land’ had not only taken away my dream of a better life but also of the same where I had started in Odisha, jobless and in deep debt,” said Madan Mohan while sitting in his house with his parents in the riverside picturesque village Nandininagar under Pattamundai municipality.
“On 3rd July, two helicopters bombed our construction site and its nearby areas. We sheltered under the basement of the 7th storied construction Siad Karbala hospital where we worked as plumbers.. We heard that battles were raging in Karbala and no one was safe. On 16th July three officials of Indian embassy reached our construction site and told us to pack up to leave Iraq. We immediately boarded bus to reach the nearby Najaf international airport. Around 250 Indian workers of Karbala and other cities left Iraq with us. The airport was packed with thousands of people already waiting to leave” said Madan Mohan.
Santosh Mahalik (35) of Sandhapalli village, who also retuned from Iraq, said: “I was promised a salary of Rs 50,000 a month, or three times what I would make at home. Instead, I was paid only Rs 30,000. On 15th July, I and several Indian co-workers including four workers of Kendrapada district left holy Karbala city of Iraq around 100 kilometre from Baghdad because our company had shut down due to the fighting, leaving us to fend for ourselves. It is impossible to say how many more are on the way, since some might be afraid to make the trip or can’t afford it. I would try to build a life in my country, despite the economic difficulties. In 2012, I was forced to leave Libya due to severe unrest. Again I also compelled to leave war-ravaged Iraq,” said Santosh.
Joyous tears were rolling down the cheeks of Manjulata, the mother of Madan Mohan, after she hogged her son in village Nandininagar. “I will not allow my son to work outside the country,” said Manjulata. But Madan Mohan differed with his mother and said: “I will go to Bahrain soon as I have little scope to earn in the country.”
“I had been working in Iraq as a plumber for two years before the conflict began. I left my wife, a son and a daughter and aging mother to travel to Iraq on borrowed funds of Rs 1.5 lakh. Now my fate hangs in balance,” said Santosh.
Debashis Rout (32) of Mohanpur and Akshya Behera (51) of Saira village also returned from Iraq last week. “Fierce gun battles have been raging in many cities across Iraq as Sunni militants try to retake towns and cities lost. With each passing day, the death toll is mounting; over a thousand people could have been killed in the clashes,” said Debashis.
When contacted, Salini Pandit, the state labour commissioner, said: “Around 200 workers of Odisha were stranded in Iraq. Ten workers have already returned from Iraq. Others workers will soon return. The state government is keeping contact with the union government for their safe return from the war-ravaged Iraq.”
By Ashis Senapati from Kendrapada