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Home > Mumbai > Mumbai News > Article > Kuwait to Mumbai Shipped to hell and forgotten

Kuwait to Mumbai: Shipped to hell and forgotten

Updated on: 09 February,2024 06:57 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Diwakar Sharma , Faisal Tandel |

Three TN men escaped sub-human working conditions in Kuwait on a fishing trawler and were booked by Mumbai cops for their troubles; but hundreds more like them are left in the lurch in Gulf nations

Kuwait to Mumbai: Shipped to hell and forgotten

Assault marks on Infant Vijay Vinay Anthony

Key Highlights

  1. The double standards of Indian law enforcement agencies was on full display
  2. The agencies had put in zero effort to end the serious humanitarian crisis
  3. Three seafarers survived only on bread during their desperate 10-day voyage

The double standards of Indian law enforcement agencies was on full display after they arrested three Tamil Nadu-based seamen who had left Kuwait in a fishing boat to escape the hazardous international maritime environment and reached Mumbai to reunite with their families. The agencies had put in zero effort to end the serious humanitarian crisis faced by stranded seafarers. The three seafarers survived only on bread during their desperate 10-day voyage to Mumbai from Kuwait, where they were subjected to brutal assault leaving terrible injury marks on their bodies. mid-day speaks to the families of other seafarers still stuck in other countries.

Avishkar Jagtap and Nivritti BagulAvishkar Jagtap and Nivritti Bagul

The men were not even paid for the work they had already done. Hundreds of Indian seafarers like them are still stuck in countries like Iran, Malaysia, Dubai or Saudi Arabia because they have been cheated by shipping agents. The seafarers, who are often trapped by bogus agents, have to forcefully surrender their passports and other documents after they board the ship to work in a perilous environment. When they raise their voice, they are assaulted. However, law enforcement agencies are hesitant to take action against these bogus agents who make big bucks by pushing these gullible seafarers into slavery.

mid-day spoke to a few seafarers stranded in various countries, who said that their lives oscillate between facing bureaucratic obstacles and legal repercussions if they escape. An Iranian-flag cargo vessel ‘Bahareh’ sank off the coast of Kuwait on January 19. Seven seafarers, including two from Nashik—Avishkar Jagtap, 20, and Nivritti Bagul, 25—and five Iranians, were onboard the vessel when it sank. Only Avishkar and Nivritti survived and managed to escape in a boat. Kuwait authorities took them to hospital, but later detained them.

Nivritti Bagul’s parents who work in a field
Nivritti Bagul’s parents who work in a field

“We have been told that they lost their passports and other vital documents in the mishap. Since they do not have relevant documents, the authorities have kept them in a jail in Kuwait,” said Avinash, a cousin. According to Avinash, the agent, Sahil Pawar fraudulently sent Avishkar and Nivritti to Dubai on December 1. “We don’t know who to contact,” he added. Both belong to poor farmer families. Avinash said he contacted the All India Seafarer Union for help, which has been to officials for their immediate release.

“The agent responsible for their travel arrangements is Sahil Pawar from Mumbai. It is said that he used fraudulent means to clear immigration at Mumbai airport, as no details of their being e-migrated through the e-gov system of the directorate could be found. In this connection, the intervention of the Indian mission is highly solicited for providing immediate consular access to the Indian seafarers (Jagtap and Bagul) and for their immediate repatriation. Your swift response on the subject will be highly appreciated,” reads a letter written by the Crew Branch of Directorate General of Shipping, Mumbai, to the Embassy of India in Kuwait on February 1.

Infant Vijay Vinay Anthony’s wife Monica with their kids
Infant Vijay Vinay Anthony’s wife Monica with their kids

But the families are desperate as there has been no communication since January 9. “We don’t know under what conditions they have been living… whether they are being given food or sleeping properly or subjected to physical assault,” Avinash said. “I won’t mind if my cousin reaches Mumbai like the three seafarers who reached Gateway of India. We can fight a legal battle here in India,” he added.

The working president of All India Seafarers Union, Abhijit Sangle, told mid-day, “This has been the case with Indian seafarers for many years. The future of seafarers is in jeopardy because of some shipping agents. Indian seafarers are sent to other countries on fake immigration and fake company documents and then forced to live there with harassment and lack of food.”

According to Sangle, he has requested the Indian Ministry of External Affairs to take the initiative to help stranded Indian seafarers. “If any seafarer escapes to India on his own initiative, he is thrown into jail for violating the laws of India,” Sangle added. Tamil Nadu-based seafarers—Nitso Ditto, 31, Infant Vijay Vinay Anthony, 29, and J Sahayanta Anish, 29— reached Gateway of India after they were subjected to mental as well as physical harassment in Kuwait. The trio planned and started their voyage and reached Mumbai where the Colaba police placed them under arrest under relevant sections of the Passport (Entry into India) Rules, 1950.

Avishkar Jagtap’s parents displaying his photograph
Avishkar Jagtap’s parents displaying his photograph

Speaking to mid-day, Anthony’s wife Monica said, “When my husband said he would complain to the Kuwait embassy about the harassment, they were assaulted with iron rods, leading to severe injuries. Their passports were seized and they were not allowed the move anywhere. In the last two years, my husband sent us just Rs 20,000.” Monica claimed that she received a call from the Mumbai police informing her that her husband reached Mumbai and was at the Colaba police station. “I spoke with my husband who asked for help to get out from Mumbai. No one is ready to help us. After two years of ordeal, now they have been arrested by the police. We are begging the government for help,” said Monica, who stays with her two kids in a tribal area near the sea in Kanyakumari.

How the seamen got trapped

Monica said that two years ago, a person named Madan told them about a job in Kuwait. “Our livelihood is dependent on fishing and we hardly earn on a daily basis. Madan assured my husband of a fishing job in Kuwait. We mortgaged our gold and took a loan. It cost almost R1 lakh for the visa, ticket and other expenses to reach Kuwait where he was harassed and not paid. I started working as a house help to run the household. We are the victims and no one is ready to help us. There are many others who are still stuck there.”

Advocate Speak

“The three were produced in court on Wednesday and remanded to police custody for three days,” said advocate Sunil Pandey who appeared for the seafarers in the Mumbai killa court. “Their passports were seized, they were tortured, harassed and assaulted with rods and other weapons. They travelled for almost 10 days by surviving on just bread. How can the police register a case against them before verifying the facts?”

Pandey further claimed that some other people had been stuck in Kuwait for eight years. “No help is provided to them. Is the embassy hand in glove with the oppressors? The embassy should look into the scam wherein lakhs of Indians are being held hostage and need help on an emergency basis,” he added.

Undetected till Mumbai coast

The boat carrying the three seafarers reach Mumbai’s coastal limits without permission, raising questions over coastal security after the 26/11 attack. According to the police, at 7.30 am on Tuesday, the boat Sumaram Chaitrali, while conducting routine marine patrol from Gateway of India to the Light House area, noticed a boat of a different make moving suspiciously in front of Sassoon Dock in the Sunk Rock area.

The Mumbai police team stopped the boat and discovered that it was from Kuwait and the name of the boat was Abdula Sharif 1. “There were 3 persons in the boat, all from Tamil Nadu and into fishing. Since the boat had entered Indian waters without a license and it was within the limits of the Colaba police station, they were handed over to the Colaba police. Further investigation regarding the boat is underway,” said a police officer.

As the coastal area comes under Yellow Gate, they started the investigation and found that the three were Indian citizens from Tamil Nadu. “They were sent to work in Kuwait but were not paid by the boat owner. They said that they were also beaten up by the boat owner. When they demanded their passports be returned the boat owner threatened to kill them. They decided to take a boat and come to India,” said an officer. The boat Abdula Sharif 1 left Kuwait on January 28 and reached Mumbai on Tuesday. Now questions are being raised on coastal security, as if a fishing boat can reach from Kuwait to Mumbai, the sea route may still be an easy way for terrorists to enter.

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