Underpaid and ill-treated, Mumbai man falls to death at construction site in Riyadh

Mar 09, 2016, 06:56 IST | Sadaguru Pandit

Family alleges the 35-year-old electrician-cum-driver was subjected to hardships by his employer, which included inhuman living conditions, repeated salary deductions and forced labour

The dream to lead a better life ended in a nightmare for the Ansars of Chembur after the sole breadwinner of the family, Sayyed Jamil Ansar (35), breathed his last on Sunday afternoon at a local hospital in Riyadh. Sayyed, along with three co-workers, fell off an iron scaffolding at an under-construction building around 9.30 am (IST). Sayyed is survived by his mother, wife and two children.

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This picture was forwarded to Sayyed’s family by one of his colleagues
This picture was forwarded to Sayyed’s family by one of his colleagues

Speaking to mid-day, the Ansars revealed the alleged hardship the 35-year-old electrician-cum-driver was subjected to by his employer. The hardships include inhuman living conditions, repeated salary deductions and forced labour.

Sayyed, who had ample experience as an electrician and a driver, left for Saudi Arabia on September 18, 2015. The Ansars claimed they had paid R70,000 to an agent who provided manpower to MI Enterprises, Tardeo-based consultants. The firm provides manpower to construction and civil work companies in Middle East.

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The family alleged that despite being hired as an electrician, Sayyed was forced to work as a labourer at an under-construction building in Haswah in Riyadh. Around 9.30 am (IST) on Sunday, Sayyed and his three colleagues — two Biharis and a Pakistani — were fitting a cable tray some 20-feet above the ground when the scaffolding collapsed.

“The workers weren’t wearing any safety harness or protective gear such as helmets. All of them were bleeding profusely and were unconscious. We informed the seniors following which all four were rushed to a hospital in Riyadh,” said one of Ansar’s friends from Riyadh.

Sayyed was rushed to King Abdulaziz Medical City, where the doctors informed his co-workers that he had slipped into coma following which the Ansars were informed about the mishap. Later, in the evening, Sayyed’s family was informed about his demise.

Forced labour
Talking to mid-day from Riyadh, Sayyed’s colleague said, “After working for three months in Jeddah and Haswah, about 150-200 of us (mainly Asians) were shifted to a small precinct along the Iraq border. A group of 15-20 was made to stay in rooms meant for five. We cooked food on chulhas. Despite begging, the company refused to relocate us. Eventually, when all of us went on strike, we were relocated to Haswah in February.”

Co-workers alleged that despite promising a monthly pay of 1,600 Riyals, none were paid more than 150-200 Riyals. “Nobody can leave without signing the exit papers, as we have signed contracts. Even though we have our passports, we cannot leave,” said Sayyed’s colleague.

Another shocker
The Ansars claimed when they met the officials of MI Enterprises on Tuesday, they were shocked to discover that none of them was aware of Sayyed’s demise.

“Ever since Sayyed and his friends informed us about the inhuman living conditions they were kept in, we have been running from pillar to post for the last three to four months to get him back. They have been sharing videos, pictures and voice messages, hoping that they would get some help. When the family eventually got through to the people who could probably help him, his friends informed us about his death,” said Sayyed’s close friend Yusuf Shaikh.

Sayyed’s mother, who is yet to be informed about his death, said, “I want my boy back. We will admit him in the hospital here and start treatment. I just want him to come back.”

Despite repeated attempts, none of the three proprietors of International Recruitment Company (IRC) — Abu Nasser Abu Sarhad, Arif Iqbal and Abdulrauf Saleem Rababah — answered calls or reverted back. The company executes civil and construction work on contract-basis, and hires Mumbai-based workforce via MI Enterprises.

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