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26 Apr 2024

By Samata Biswas, The Wire (India)

Indian Migrant Workers March Into the Line of Fire in Israel

See all tags Allegations

In the award-winning Sea of Poppies, Indian novelist Amitav Ghosh immortalised the journey of 19th century indentured labour migrants— called “girmitiyas“—aboard a ship to Mauritius during the heyday of British colonialism.

It’s 2024. Another group of migrant workers trudges through New Delhi international airport carrying cheap plastic suitcases, wearing clothing bought off roadside flea markets.

They are the new age “girmitiyas” in search of a promised El Dorado.

More than 60 Indian construction workers left for Israel in early April amid mounting concerns for their safety and rising opposition from trade unions in India, but to no avail…

When Israel’s war on Palestine erupted last October, Israel cancelled the permits of Palestinian workers, and sought to replace them with as many as 100,000 migrant workers from countries like India, continuing an agreement between the two governments.

While Israel’s recruitment of workers in a conflict zone is worrying, far worse is India’s willingness to send its workers into the line of fire…

The motivations of the Indian government — which actively facilitated the recruitment of Indian workers to Israel under its National Skill Development Corporation — come into question.

The answer can be found in India’s strained relationship with its migrant workers — both under British colonialism and after independence…