Endangering existence for employment

India
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A Leap of Faith: The Saga of Indian Workers Yearning for Israeli Jobs

In the opening days of 2024, as the Ram temple in Ayodhya solemnly opened gates to the public, Surendra Singh, a 40-year-old man from Garhdiwala town, embarked on a different pilgrimage. Singh left his humble abode to catch a train to Lucknow with a dream of providing future economic security to his family, a dream that sent him across continents, towards the shores of Israel. Singh believes he has overcome the initial hurdle. “I am confident that I have cleared the test,” he beams.

The Great Migration

Like Singh, there were a little above 500 men who arrived at the Industrial Training Institute in Lucknow to apply for temporary employment in Israel’s construction sector. The institute was assigned as the nodal centre for conducting the trade test, the second such centre in the country.

This came after the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship signed a three-year deal with the Israeli government in late 2023 allowing temporary employment of Indian workers in the State of Israel, specifically in the construction and caregiving sectors. Trade unions protested the move, stating it was a risk to send Indian citizens into a war-torn region with few protections.

The Modern Exodus

Even though they are aware of the ongoing conflict and the inherent dangers, these men remained undeterred, lured by the prospect of better wages. Singh, who had previously worked in Qatar before returning due to the COVID-19 pandemic, was sanguine. “For people like us, managing basic needs comes first. The salaries in India are so low,” he explained.

In December, after discussions between the National Skills Development Corporation (NSDC) and the Israeli government’s Population, Immigration and Border Authority, the government of Uttar Pradesh announced about 10,000 job openings at Israeli construction sites with handsome salaries. A total of 5,000 applicants applied during the online registration process while many more were expected to show up for the walk-in interviews.

Life in the Promised Land

Yet, industry insiders and workers from foreign nations have noted harsh working conditions, often constituting mistreatment. Accessing healthcare in Israel is reported to be difficult, with living costs being threefold of India. Hence, it is advised for the labourers to talk to their families and ensure a clearly detailed salary breakdown before they commence this journey.

The NSDC International, a public limited company, is assisting in the recruitment primarily in Uttar Pradesh and Haryana. After online registration, the candidates progress to the test rooms as per their respective trades. On clearing the barriers, they will be employed by an Israeli company who will take onus for their well-being.

The Final Frontier

Despite the assurances provided by the NSDC, critics and activists continue to raise concerns about the repercussions of sending Indian labourers to a conflict zone, citing safety issues and a disparity in income and living standards. Some critics also highlight the need for better job opportunities and wages within India, questioning India’s implementation of safeguards and negotiations for fair working conditions.

Regardless of these apprehensions, individuals like Singh are willing to take the plunge. The promise of lucrative salaries to support their family back in India trumps their fears. And as the undecided future awaits them, these brave immigrants sign off their homeland, tightly clinching onto hopes and dreams of a better life in the Promised Land.

Reference

This story is a reportage from Reader Wall and is based on ground zero first-person accounts and investigations.

John Kerry

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