Indian Diaspora in Conflict Zones


India is the world’s largest origin of International migrants. The great Indian Diaspora started around the colonial era, when Indians we’re forcibly displaced to other parts of the world for construction and plantation projects. Bonded Indian labourers were moved around  the globe. More recently, there are about 30 million Indian overseas with over 90 percent of Indian migrant workers (semi skilled and unskilled) working in Gulf region and south East Asia. Low-skilled migrant workers are earning approximately 1.5–3 times more in wages in the destination countries (Kuwait, KSA and UAE), even when the wages are compared with the highest rate of minimum wages prevailing among the different Indian states . According to the International Labour Organisation. India is a significant source for low and semi skilled workers as well as professional STEM and medical fields.   In  the midst of fluctuating unemployment rates, where the youth has become desperate,  India has made agreements to send workers to Israel and Russia, both being conflict zones.

A bilateral agreement was signed between Israel and New Delhi prior to October 7th.  Over 10,000 positions are being advertised with recruitments taking place in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh and Rohtak, Haryana. These are mainly construction work related positions that offer over 1,30,000 Rs. as salary with some bonuses and free accommodation. For a constructer worker in India, this is the dream. This rush for mass scale employment occurred post October 7th when the conflict erupted between Israel and Hamas. Israel suspended thousands of work permits of Palestinians construction workers leaving most construction sites idle. These sites are around Tel aviv where more high rises are getting added to the skyline  and in occupied West Bank. According to The Gaurdian, Israel relied on more than 80,000 workers which they will replace with labour from China and India.

For many workers this is a good opportunity as many of them say that the con of moving to a  conflict zone  is outweighed by job security and offers. Even though Indians  have more affinity and working opportunities in the Gulf region, Israel requires semi and unskilled labour. A big part of Indian population relies on informal jobs, because of which Indians are keen on aquiring these jobs.

On the other hand, A joint statement was released on 9th November 2023 where over 10 Central  trade unions of India have called the Indian government to reject Israel’s need for workers from India. The strongly worded letter said that Indian trade workers will not be complicit in genocide of Palestinians while also rejecting the commodification of Indian labour market. Along with this, Water Transport Workers Federation of India , a union of 3500 workers, has refused to load or unload any weaponised cargos that go to Israel while demanding an immediate ceasefire.

Meanwhile, In Ukraine around in November 2022, some Indians volunteered to International Legion to fight from the Russian side. According to media reports, over a 100 Indians have been recruited by the Russian army. This has been acknowledged by the Indian foreign Ministry. These recruits were falsely drafted to take part in the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war. About 20 people stranded at Mariupol, Kharkiv, Donetsk and the Russia-Ukraine war have requested the Indian government for aid. One Gujarati recruit died in a missile strike.

India’s diaspora is reflected in the interplay of historical, economic, and geopolitical factors.     While lucrative opportunities in conflict zones like Israel and Russia call for ethical concerns. The dichotomy between economic necessity and ethical principles  need nuanced choices beneficial to Indian migrant workers . As India navigates its role in the global labor market, balancing economic interests with human rights considerations remains paramount. Ultimately, the stories of individuals caught in these dynamics emphasize the need for nuanced, principled approaches to migration policy.

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