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Campaign in Oman to check suicide rate

Debts and non-payment of salaries drive workers to suicide

Gulf News

Muscat: Caught between the devil and the deep sea, a low-wage Indian expatriate in Oman’s southern town Sur is threatening to commit suicide.

He is among the increasing number of Indian expatriates committing suicide mainly due to mounting debts and irregular or non-payment of salaries.

Bhullar Das, who arrived in Oman to work as a tiling mason, paid a hefty amount of Rs70,000 (Dh4,600) to secure the job but on arrival here realised that there was no tiling work, as yet, for him.

“My skill is tiling but as the company had no suitable work I was asked to be a helper,” he said, adding that he reluctantly agreed to work as a helper as he had incurred huge debts to pay an agent to get this job.

“I was hoping to save enough money in the next two years to clear the debt,” he said.

“The company then wanted me to go to Ibra where there was no proper accommodation and that started the dispute,” he added.

Bhullar was then made to sit without work and claimed he hasn’t been paid for the last one month. “Now the company wants to send me back but I don’t want to go back as I have taken Rs70,000 from a moneylender back home,” he said.

“I can’t work the way they want me to and I can’t even go back as I must save enough to pay my debts,” the 25-year-old worker from India’s Punjab state told Gulf News.

“If my problem is not solved in time, I will kill myself,” or else, added the depressed worker, “I will kill someone in the company.”

Bhullar is not an isolated case of a frustrated expatriate worker threatening to commit suicide but the rate of suicides has increased so much that Indian expatriates from the state of Kerala have started two counselling groups.

Before that Rita Samuel has been single-handedly carrying out a campaign for over a decade to help workers in distress and talk them out of committing suicide.

“Poor workers pay in lakhs [hundreds of thousands], they sell their land, gold or take loans from moneylenders to pay agents,” said Samuel, who started with counselling distressed people through phone calls in 1999 and has now set up a website (http://senorita-dquest.wix.com/helpline-counselling-services#!contact-us) to widen her reach among middle class people.

“These debt-ridden workers come here and realise that they have to do jobs not related to their skills; they can’t leave as they have debt and frustration grows leading to suicide,” the social worker says.

A group of Malayalam-speaking expatriates have started a campaign — Tanima Oman — with the Royal Oman Police (ROP) to counsel people with suicidal tendencies.

“Our campaign slogan is ‘You are not alone: Life is beautiful and is meant for living’,” Muneer, a committee member with Tanima Oman, told Gulf News. They distributed multi-lingual pamphlets in Hindi, Urdu, English and Malayalam to highlight the importance of life.

“Debt trap is a major cause of suicides,” Moosa Koya, a volunteer counsellor with Tanima Oman, said.

He pointed out that an increasing number of middle class people were also committing suicide in Oman. “It is largely due to mismanagement of finances and living beyond one’s means for prestige in the society,” he reckons.

The Overseas Indian Cultural Congress (OICC) general-secretary, told Gulf News.

This year, 30 Indians committed suicide in the first six months against 52 in 2011. The year (2012) started with eight suicide cases in January but campaigns against suicide have brought down the number of suicide cases to just two in the month of June.

An individual and groups are trying their best to tell depressed expatriates with suicidal tendencies that life is precious and to manage their finances to avoid debt traps.

 

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