1,200 Indian workers hiding in Angola forests: victim

1,200 Indian workers hiding in Angola forests: victim

The condition of over 1200 Indian workers held 'hostage' by a company in Angola was grim and the government should take immediate measures to expedite their release, a Gujarati worker who was among those stranded in the African country said here today on his return.

Stranded Indian worker at Angola Mahendra Ratilal Patel (Red Tshirt) with his family after his return at his house at billimora town in South Gujarat on Saturday. PTI

Talking to newsmen, Vijay Valmiki said "the situation is grim for about 1200 protesting workers. They had to take shelter in the forest to escape from police wrath, local administration and company management since past 32 days, ever since they began agitation in support of their demand," he said, narrating their plight.

All of them were promised wages in American dollars, while they were paid in local currency, after which the agitation started. They have been taken hostage for protesting against the factory management, he said.

"Police had resorted to heavy firing... nearly 300 rounds were fired to scare them," Valmiki claimed.

"We were not injured in firing because we took shelter in the forest while one youth who was injured in firing was kept in a hostel and not taken to the hospital," Valmiki said. They had tolerated the atrocities with dreams of a better future for their families, said Vijay who had left for Angola to work in the electrical division of a cement factory.

Valmiki said "Officials of the cement company, located near Sumbe city of the African country, have taken away the passports of all the 1200 workers, putting them in a piquant situation." Valmiki was carrying lists of the Indian workers whose passports were taken away by the company officials. He managed to return to Vadodara based on an Immigration Certificate (IC).

"The Centre is not doing much on the issue, while the lives of 1200 Indians are in danger in Angola," he said.

"Ashish Maheshwari, a youth from Vadodara has been detained there and his whereabouts are not known," he said. The worried family members of the workers have urged the government to intervene in the matter quickly and ensure safe return of their kith and kin.

"We will also request the Prime Minister to initiate effective steps for the safety of Indians stranded in Angola," Valmiki said. He said that most of the Indian workers at the factory were recruited by a Chennai-based firm while he had got the job through a Vadodara-based placement agency.

There were around 40 youths from Gujarat who were working in the Angola factory. Four of them have returned to India, he informed.

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