Window cleaners in the United Arab Emirates. Bangalore: At a job interview last November, Roshan Dandugalla* was promised a 950-dirham cleaner’s job ($259 or Rs 18,910) at a major hospitality and cleaning firm in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Hours before he got on the plane in December, his agent in Mumbai gave him a contract for 735 dirhams ($200 or Rs 14,630). “In the agreement, my salary was 735 dirhams,” Roshan said. “The agent took my signature on the agreement but did not give me a copy.” Roshan’s colleague, Arvind Karamkanti* went through the same ordeal: promised 950dirhams, he signed a 735-dirham contract. Roshan’s agent’s excuse was that salaries had been lowered due to the pandemic. In September 2020, when India’s airspace was closed and recruitment shops shut, the ministry of external affairs issued two wage circulars (here and here) which effectively reduced the minimum monthly wages for migrants recruited to work in six Gulf countries by at least 20 to 50%. The Indian government set minimum referral wages to protect wages of nationals in 18 “Emigration Check Required (ECR)” countries, places like Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Libya, where Indians are commonly recruited to work blue-collar jobs. Wage rates are notified by executive order following consultations with Indian missions and form a benchmark for foreign businesses hiring from India. Wages in Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, United Arab Emirates (UAE) were slashed to $200; in Saudi Arabia, to $324; in Kuwait to $196 for domestic

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