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25 Jan, 2010 03:02

Crisis crunch’s follow up in India

The impact of the global financial downturn is being felt keenly in Dubai, and this in turn is affecting remote villages in India.

About 75,000 people have left the Indian district of Siwan to work in the Gulf. Most are employed in construction, in Dubai, where they hope to earn enough money to pull their families out of poverty.

The biggest reason for going to Dubai is that the wages there are much more there than where they are living. A construction worker can earn up to $800 a month; he spends only on food and can send the rest back to his family. If he goes to Mumbai and Delhi instead, he'll earn only $200 dollars, so he thinks, why not go overseas and the contracts there are often for 3 years.

But with the Dubai debt crisis hitting construction companies there, many migrants are returning home. Rajeev Kumar Tiwari worked as an electrician in Dubai for the last 7 years, but decided to head back to India when he stopped getting his wages.

Rajeev Kumar Tiwari told RT: “If the company doesn't have money, it can't pay us. If we don't get salaries for 2 months, we would have to spend our previous earnings on food. The cost of living in Dubai is higher, too. What money can a man send home to his wife and children in such a situation?”

Rajeev's brother, Rakesh Tiwari, returned in December. Like everyone in their village, he'd taken a loan from a moneylender to pay a local agent to arrange a job in Dubai. With no work, he's finding it difficult to pay off the loan.

“I am still paying back the loan, I haven't been able to clear it yet. I paid $1,700 to the agent when I went. I still have to return $500 to the people I borrowed this from,” he said.

In a farming community there are few jobs to be had. With 25 men returning to the village, there is a growing sense of frustration. Rakesh's father Bharat Bhushan Tiwari is a worried man, now that all 3 of his sons are back from Dubai and are unemployed.

“I thought my sons had settled down when they went to Dubai,” Bharat Bhushan Tiwari said. “But the job situation there is now like here.”

The bright lights of Dubai seem very far away from this village in Bihar. But the economic crisis is not only affecting Dubai, it is also affecting many families in rural India, for whom the immediate future is looking increasingly bleak.