The media does not care about issues that affect migrants

BY REJIMON K| IN Media Practice | 20/05/2014
Instead of discussing the Indian migrants' expectations from Modi the TV channel suggested that the media and governments in the Gulf were worried about his victory.
REJIMON K is disappointed by a slanted talk show. PIX: the author on the programme

The media houses, be it in the West or in the East, can have their own agendas and across the globe they do when approaching certain issues.  And being a media person for the last nine years, I never get surprised or worked up while watching prime time discussions on television channels, especially on the Indian news channels.

But never had I thought that I would also be ‘victimised’ during a live television panel discussion.

Last Sunday when I was called by a correspondent from an Indian channel to discuss about the expectations of an Indian migrant worker in one of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries after Narendra Modi’s ascension to power, I said yes because I have been a part of their discussion panels several times earlier as well.

In the past, this Kerala-based channel has given much priority to Indian migrants’ issues and has also done special stories on them.

So, I was very much willing to attend the discussion. But surprisingly, the news reader instead of talking on Indian migrants’ expectations from Modi started alleging that the GCC media and GCC governments were worried about his victory and what did I have to say about it. The channel was also concerned about the future of India’s relations with the Arab countries, Israel and Palestine.

I was wondering how these things will affect an ordinary Indian migrant worker, who is working for more than nine hours in ‘hostile’ conditions under the benevolence of the employer who can deport him at any time, staying in dilapidated accommodations, surviving on limited food, suffering from forced bachelorhood, waiting for the meagre salary and basically, struggling to survive. One of the panel members, who claimed to be a Leftist, was giving credit to the Congress-led UPA government’s achievements in this matter.

According to him, the former government has done a lot for the Indian migrants in its 10-year rule and the Arab governments are a little jittery after Modi coming to power.

As I got the chance to air my views, I categorically stated that none of the GCC media have aired their apprehensions over Modi coming to power and I have not come across any statement issued by the GCC governments either, welcoming or unwelcoming Modi.

Even though, I wanted to discuss the core issues faced by an Indian migrant, the news reader muted my connection and moved on to the next person on the panel.

I felt disappointed. It was not because I didn’t get a chance to air my views or discuss the core issues faced by an Indian migrant, I was disappointed because, the television channel was focusing on what will happen to the political stand of the Arab countries vis-a-vis India, Israel and Palestine, but is that what Indian migrants are worried about?

The ground reality of Indian migrant workers is that they feel social and economic insecurity as a migrant and even after returning to their homeland.

The global statistics claim that there are 25 million Indians working abroad (the government of India doesn’t have statistics due to many reasons) and majority of them are blue-collar workers who earn less than INR 10,000. But, interestingly, according to the World Bank report on remittances, Indians stand on top of the list in the amount of remittances.

In 2013, Indian migrants remitted nearly $70 billion to India. So, the fact is that the Indian migrants are playing a vital role in supporting the Indian economy but, their contributions are neglected.

Even though politicians claim to have done a lot for them,   in day to day life, a poor Indian migrant worker is being shooed away.

During my reporting on migrant workers for the newspaper I currently work for, I have seen that many a times, the overseas missions also fail to have a compassionate approach towards the  Indian migrants’ problems.

The former minister who was in charge of the Indian diaspora issues has told the media many a times that Indian Community Welfare Fund (ICWF) maintained by missions will be shared to meet the hospital emergencies faced by an Indian migrant worker and the funds will also be used to repatriate the dead body of an Indian migrant worker if the sponsor refuses to do so.

But the ground reality is that they missions do little. Then finally to repatriate a dead body social organisations will have to come out with begging bowls. I have carried those begging bowls many a times with others to repatriate the bodies.

This is where an Indian migrant worker would like a government to intervene. Let it be Modi or somebody else, a migrant worker is expecting only compassionate treatment from the government.

When he gets stranded without a job, food, shelter or when he is caught in some legal trouble, he wants his government to have a compassionate approach towards his problems.

If these things are taken care of, I feel that whether it is Modi or somebody else, the Indian migrant worker will welcome him. Because, he is struggling to make both ends meet in a foreign land.

According to the UN, during the 10 year million development goals (MDG), which is also focused on the betterment of the migrants, they were able to push some governments to bring down the remittance costs.

So, when this is the scene globally, an Indian migrant worker will also expect that new government to work on bringing down the remittance costs. Even if INR 100 is saved, it will be a great thing for him as he sweats a lot to earn the INR 10,000.

In addition to remittance costs, an ordinary Indian migrant worker will wish that the new government works on the recruitment process and streamline it so that he never lands in trouble.

An Indian migrant domestic worker would also want his government to ratify ILO (International Labour Organization) C189 which guarantees decent work status and rights for him. Many of the countries who are concerned over their citizens working as domestic workers abroad have ratified it. To name one, Philippine has done it because they never compromise in protecting their migrant workers.

These are the welfare measures expected by an Indian migrant worker from a new government and he is least bothered about whether there will be a change in the political understandings of India, Arab countries, Israel, and  Palestine when Modi comes to power and whether it will affect them or not.

The Indian migrants want only social and economic security, because the majority of them left India not because of their wish to earn more, they left because they couldn’t find an opportunity in their homeland to take care of their loved ones.

When media houses discuss issues they should do a thorough homework before they go live on air with their views.

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