Salaries were withheld, passports were confiscated, and money was running out: of the 62 Indians working for the Nobles Group, one of Sudan‘s largest ceramic tread makers, life has been difficult since their arrival in the Republic. Their plight worsened after a military coup in October, after which Sudanese company owner Muhammad Al-Mamoun fled to the Middle East, the company was taken over by the military government.
“I haven’t gotten my salary for one year and they don’t give us proper food. In this company, 25 people are working and none of us have gotten our salaries,” stated Maruthi Ram Dandapani who is an Indian employee at the Al Masa porcelain factory which is in the Albagair industrial area in the outskirts of the capital Khartoum.
About 80 kilometers from the RAK Ceramics factory, owned by the Nobles Group, in the Garri Industrial Area, now under military jurisdiction, the same story has been going on for months. The 41 Indians working in the area have not been paid for a year. It was not just the withholding of wages that caused difficulties for these workers: the company also withheld their passports, locked them in the company’s headquarters in Khartoum, quoted company policy, barred them from leaving Sudan, workers told indiananexpress.com.
“When I first came here, one month passed and we asked our general manager for the salary. She kept giving excuses that it would be given next month. Then more time passed,” stated Raju Shetty who is a Karnataka resident who arrived in the nation nearly eight months ago. “They said they didn’t have funds. Then four months after we chased them, they paid us one month’s salary. Then two more months passed in discussions. Just when they said they were going to pay us, the coup happened, and the manager said the government seized the property. This is the situation,” Shetty further explained.
Workers from all over India who were hired to work in the Nobles Group-owned factories in Sudan said their families relied on their salaries to pay for daily necessities and debts. After the company stopped paying the workers, their families back home struggled financially.
The public information about Muhammad Al-Mamoun, the owner of the company, is small but until the overthrow, he had a separate business in Sudan, invested in railways, transportation, petroleum chemicals, agriculture, tile production, among other interests. On the Facebook page of Sudanese journalists who told indiananexpress.com that it was legal, the Empowerment Removal Committee, the country’s anti-corruption committee confiscated illegally acquired property, wrote a detailed report on why Al-Mamoun’s finances, real estate, houses, and buildings were built. acquired by the government and why it was opened for him and his colleagues.
A few weeks ago, the employees at both RAK Ceramics and Al Masa porcelain factory desperately contacted the Indian embassy in Khartoum, seeking help, but more significantly, demanding that their passports be returned to them. “They are saying it will happen but we don’t know what they are doing. Two weeks ago, we spoke to the embassy, and they told us that it would take time, but they don’t know how long,” Pandey stated.
The lack of proper food, the acute financial strain, and uncertainty have affected their mental and physical health, some employees stated to indianexpress.com. “A few days ago, someone tried to jump from the terrace. We somehow managed to stop him. We tried explaining to him, but he said that his family was facing difficulties and here he had his own set of problems,” stated Virendra Pratap Varma. “All that the employees keep saying is ‘we just want to go back. We are just trying to find ways to leave this place but we aren’t getting the opportunity.”
“He returned from India some five to six months ago, so he has his visa and passport with him; the company didn’t get a chance to take it from him. He told us that he can leave the country at any time. He taunted us saying ‘your visa passports are not with you, how will you leave?’ We are afraid of what will happen to us if he leaves,” Varma stated.
The Indian embassy, say staff, has given Sudanese about $ 1,00,000 1,00,000, to expel, until a permanent decision is reached. They were measuring food so that the money would last longer. But staff have told indianxpress.com that they are worried about money laundering and worst of all, a sick person, in need of health care. Both industries are in very remote areas, where many miles of workers can only see large sands. We don’t have cars to take someone to the hospital if they fall sick. The nearest hospital is 7 km away and we can’t walk there,” stated Varma.
The lack of communication and support from the company and the overthrow of the government have made the situation difficult for these Indians. Shetty told indiananexpress.com that their visas are valid for two months after which they need to be renewed, a procedure the company has previously implemented. Upon leaving the country, Sudan requires workers to pay a day-to-day residence permit for their visa, which would be about a month’s salary if the situation persists.
The complexity of their situation and the feeling of abandonment has left the group in both factories in despair and fear. “Unless we pay those fines, we won’t be allowed to leave the country. Who will give us so much money?” enquired Pandey. “We don’t know how long we have to carry on like this. Nobody is able to sleep at night. we are going mental here,” stated Varma.
Source – The Indian Express