In praise of those who toil for the welfare of others

TARIQ A. AL-MAEENA are many expatriates who come to this country to do their job and move on. They keep themselves focused on what they have been recruited for, and generally keep to themselves. However, there are some individuals who concern themselves with the welfare of their countrymen and try to lend a hand. These individuals are not part of any diplomatic mission, and yet their mission is just as critical. They usually form their own NGO and help out where needed.

Shamsudheen Chettippadi an expatriate and a social worker associated with the Kerala Muslim Cultural Center in Jubail is one of them. He has in the past tirelessly worked for the release of imprisoned Indian fishermen who had unknowingly strayed into territorial waters. Now he is feverishly campaigning for the release of 17 Indian nationals who have been put in jail in Jubail. According to Chettippadi, these workers who are working with a large Chinese construction company have been jailed since last September.

A complaint was raised against them by company officials with the police when they did not show up for work following the death of one of the workers in their camp who allegedly died due to the lack of prompt medical assistance. It is claimed that the worker was not taken to hospital for six or seven days after he contracted typhoid fever, in spite of repeated requests to company officials for his hospitalization by fellow workers.

Chettippadi says that other Indian workers in the camp initially were evacuated from company’s camp following the incident and shifted to another camp for two weeks and later transferred back to the company’s main camp in Jubail. According to the relatives of the jailed workers, 17 of them were rounded up by the company two days after the incident took place on the pretext of sending them to India on a final exit visa, but they were instead handed over to the Jubail police on dubious charges and put in jail in an apparent attempt to intimidate other workers and to cover up the reasons for the worker’s death.

Chettippadi adds: “They have not yet been charged with any serious allegations but for more than three months, they are still in jail. Their relatives say that the company used to pay the salary to their laborers only after two or three months. The company also used to deduct SR500 from their salary each month. The workers normally are provided with only a photocopy of their iqama and they do not get their original iqama which is the legal permit to stay in Saudi Arabia. This shows that the company is the violating rules prevailing in Saudi Arabia.”

The company is currently undertaking large scale projects for KFUPM in Dhahran, the Royal Commission headquarters in Yanbu and the housing project for SABIC under the Royal Commission in Jubail which consists of the construction of 1,280 villas for SABIC as part of the housing scheme for SABIC employees. The workers who were residing in the site camp in Jalmouda area in Jubail Industrial city are from various states such as Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh in India. There are more than 100 Indian workers in the Jubail project along with workers from China, Nepal and Pakistan.

Relatives of the imprisoned workers had contacted Mr. Chettippadi, who then approached the Indian Embassy and requested its involvement to set in motion steps to free the workers. The Indian Embassy team has since visited the jail and met the workers and collected the pertinent details from them and is in the process of arranging to secure their release.

Meanwhile, Shamsudheen Chettippadi continues his close monitoring of developments in the interest of the welfare of the jailed Indians. Such is the story of one expatriate who thinks and acts out of the box in his concern for his countrymen. He could have easily remained content to earn his salary and remain isolated from events surrounding his own people. But he chose to make a stand. We are grateful that individuals like Mr. Chettippadi exist, because through their selfless actions they restore our faith in human concerns.

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