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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