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Dead & gone, yet bodies of Gulf workers rot in Mideast morgues

Dead & gone, yet bodies of Gulf workers rot in Mideast morgues
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Dead & gone, yet bodies of Gulf workers rot in Mideast morgues

Highlights

Every year about 2,600 Indians die in Saudi Arabia due to various reasons including heart attack, suicide, work site accidents and road accidents

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Hyderabad: The final rites of Sunke Rajaiah (55) of Kondapur village in Jagtial were performed by his family amid presence of his friends and relatives on Sunday. The loved ones had to wait for five months for the coffin to arrive from Riyadh. On Saturday, the body was flown to Hyderabad. "We endured a lot and the wait was agonising. In villages, the news spreads like wildfire and everyone asks many insensitive questions. We hope no one goes through what we had to," said Rajaiah's daughter. Rajaiah's mortal remains reached the family 145 days after his death.

This is not just a one-off case. Hundreds of Indians and a sizable number from Telangana die in Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates every year. But, there is a log jam in repatriation of dead bodies. Rajaiah's family was lucky as one Badugu Laxman, a social worker also from Telangana, had helped send the body. But not all are lucky.

Every year about 2,600 Indians die in Saudi Arabia of various reasons including heart attack, suicide, worksite accidents and road accidents. Bheem Reddy Mandha, president, Emigrants Welfare Forum said, "Log jam in repatriation of dead bodies in the jurisdiction of Indian Missions in Riyadh and Jeddah are due to staff shortage."

At any given time, around 100 bodies of Indian workers lie in mortuaries in Saudi Arabia waiting to be repatriated back home. The cancellation of visas and transportation cost are prime reasons behind the delay in repatriation of dead bodies, said Swadesh Parkipandla, president, Pravasi Mithra Labour Union. Hundreds of workers take up menial jobs and over time lose their passports or leave the first employer who does not hand over the passport and stay on illegally for years. Such workers find it difficult and almost impossible to wade through the procedures and return home. Last month, Neela Yellaiah, a worker from Kamareddy, reunited with family after 16 years.

It was a case of luck. One Rupesh Mehta, a volunteer from the Jain Seva Mission (JSM), a social service organisation spotted Yellaiah at a free food distribution centre in Dubai and helped him get a temporary passport. Yellaiah was lucky, but not scores of Gulf migrants who are stuck in a distant land.

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