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Goan youth trapped in Saudi desert village as a camel herder

RAMNATH N PAI RAIKAR | NT

PANAJI: The dream of Sameer Naik, a youth hailing from Tisk-Usgao, to earn decent money by working as a driver in Saudi Arabia lies shattered as he finds himself helplessly trapped in a desert village, 300 kms from the nation’s capital, Riyadh, and forced to take up camel herding.

What is more harrowing is just as the Goan youth has been illegally stripped of his passport, mobile phone and other documents, and beaten up by his employer in case he refuses to work, the Riyadh-based Indian Embassy is awaiting for an official complaint to be lodged by either Goan or Indian government for taking up the rescue exercise.

Digambar, the brother of Sameer, who tried to seek help from the local political leaders for bringing back his brother, has been unsuccessful till date.

Speaking to ‘The Navhind Times’, Digambar said that Sameer was promised a job of a driver in Saudi Arabia by one Siraj Ansari, a Mumbai-based agent linked to N S Enterprises. “Sameer left Goa on May 7, earlier this year and was kept at Hyderabad till May 23 by this agent,” he added, informing that Sameer along with other people from the rest of India was taken to Riyadh on May 23.

Once in Saudi Arabia, Sameer was taken to a desert village and compelled to rear the camels, with his duty hours starting at 4 in the morning and continuing up to midnight. He is allowed only 3 to 4 hours of sleeping time. The long hours of working in blazing sun has developed cracks in his feet. “Trapped in the desert, my brother found a friend in a youth from Pakistan also working for the same employer, who lent his own mobile phone so that my brother could inform his tribulations back home,” Digambar informed, stating, “When I got a call from my brother, I did not receive it, as it was some unknown foreign number.”

However, fortunately for Sameer, another youth from Tisk-Usgao, Anil, who had been working in Riyadh was in Goa. After his brother did not pick up the call, Sameer called Anil, who received the call and helped Sameer establish contact with his family in Goa. Sameer also called the Riyadh-based Indian Embassy in Saudi Arabia, who expressed its inability to act in the absence of an official complaint from any Indian authority.

When ‘The Navhind Times’ spoke to Anil, he informed, “When I initially went to Saudi Arabia for a job on a 90-day visit visa, within 15 days of my arrival in that country, my employer got my medical test done, which was a pre-requisite for getting a job visa for me.”

Speaking to this daily Anil said, as per the information he received from Sameer, his employer has not even provided him with the employment card, so much necessary for foreigners working in Saudi Arabia.

Digambar and Anil have been making all efforts to get Sameer released from the clutches of his employer, without any success. They have met a senior Congress MLA as well as a top local Bharatiya Janata Party leader, however nothing positive has resulted out of their assurances.

According to the job-related papers made available to ‘The Navhind Times’, the name of the employer of Sameer is Hamoud Mana Bin Hamdan Qahtani. He appears to belong to a nomadic tribe moving from one part of desert to another. Therefore, it is very difficult to ascertain the present permanent address of Sameer, who has to move continuously with the tribe.

Speaking further, Anil said that the nomadic tribes own a huge container on wheels, which is used to cook food and as a resting place for the caretakers of camels. “The caravan is also accompanied by a large water tanker of capacity between 12,000 litres and 15,000 litres, used to provide water to the travelling tribe,” he added. The employer and his family stay in the large tents.

When asked if more Goans had proceeded to Saudi Arabia along with Sameer, his brother said that Sameer was the lone Goan in the group. “However, there were many people from the rest of the country, who had been taken to Riyadh by the particular agent,” he noted.

Digambar also maintained that he had contacted the agent and briefed him about the difficulties faced by Sameer. “He agreed to bring back Sameer as also return all our money charged by him, but failed to do so,” he stated.

The Western as well as Gulf countries have always remained a dream-world for most of the Indians, which supposedly offer them lucrative jobs with high salaries. However, when the bubble of their dream bursts, it is often too late. One hopes the state government and the Union Ministry of External Affairs act fast before it is too late and bring Sameer back to his family, which includes a sister and an old mother eagerly awaiting his arrival.

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