Kuwait fire tragedy

At least 50 people were burnt to death, when a fire swept through a residential building in the town of Mangaf in Southern Kuwait, in the early hours of June 12. At least 45 of them were migrant workers from India. More then 50 others have been hospitalized with serious burn injuries. The majority of the workers who have suffered injuries are also migrants from India.

The Communist Ghadar Party expresses its heartfelt condolences to the families who have lost their near and dear ones. The Government of India must ensure all possible assistance to the families of those who have lost their lives, or suffered injuries.

According to the Kuwaiti authorities, the fire in the residential complex was caused by a short circuit in a kitchen in the ground floor of the seven-storey residential building. It began at 4 am when the people were sleeping and quickly spread upwards, engulfing the entire building. According to news reports, the ground floor of the building was used to store gas cylinders, which began to explode. About 195 migrant workers, the vast majority of them Indians, lived in this building. The workers lived in shared rooms, with cardboard screens serving as partitions between their beds. The door to the terrace of the building was locked, so that people could not even go up to the roof. In sum, the owners of the building openly flouted all fire safety norms, with the full connivance of the authorities.

According to news reports, the building is owned by the NBTC group, an Indian company which operates in Kuwait, UAE and Saudi Arabia. The company works in engineering and construction, logistics, hotels and retail.  At present the company employs 15,000 workers. The migrant workers living in this building were working for this company.

The fire tragedy draws attention to the savage exploitation of migrant workers in Kuwait, and the harsh and unsafe conditions in which they are forced to live in. Kuwait is an oil rich country, in which the majority of the 40 lakh population consists of migrant workers. This includes 10 lakh migrant workers from India. Most of the migrant workers work in the construction and service industry. Their families in India have sent them to Kuwait, after spending a lot of money, in the hope that they would pay back their loans, and come back with some money in order to lift them out of poverty. With accommodation and food in Kuwait being extremely costly, the migrant workers from India and other countries are forced to live in overcrowded accommodations. These buildings openly flout all fire safety norms, with the full knowledge of the authorities.

It is well known that migrant workers from India who seek livelihood in Kuwait, UAE, Saudi Arabia and other countries of West Asia are savagely exploited, and forced to live in extremely unsafe conditions. The fact that lakhs of workers are forced to seek jobs in these harshly exploitative and hazardous conditions, is a reflection of the staggering unemployment problem in our country.

The Indian government cannot turn a blind eye to the conditions of our workers in these countries. It must take steps to ensure their security and well being.

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