Labour kept from its fruits
Between Asian Dreams and Qatari Reality
By Vani SaraswathiIt's not really news, but it's finally official. Qatar's treatment of more than half itspopulation
most of whom are from the sub-continent
violates a long list of human rights, and is now the subject of a recent report by Human Rights Watch.No one in Qatar is greatly startled or surprised by what the report has to say,because it's difficult to ignore the plight of the men who build our homes, towers,malls and parks. It's difficult to ignore the slums called labour camps where theyare expected to live, or turn a blind eye to how they are forced to spend their freetime in small grassy patches in the middle of bustling commercial districts. Why?Because they are not allowed to go anywhere near where the privileged live andplay, even if they were instrumental in its construction.It wouldn't be far off the mark to call this system of segregating the labourersfrom the rest a form of apartheid. Entertainment complexes are to be built in the'Industrial area', away from the city, for the exclusive use of these labourers. Thegovernment is keen on moving 'bachelors' away from residential areas of the citywhere families live. Doesn't matter that the only bachelors they are concernedabout are the ones from the sub-continent and certain parts of North Africa.
Exiled to the ghettos
Migrant workers make up 94% of Qatar's workforce.Nationals (Qataris) make up only 15% of the total population of 1.7 million
thelargest citizen to migrant ratio in the world
with Indians making up the singlelargest group at 24%. More than half the population is from the subcontinent.Here are some other numbers to chew on: Nepali 16%; Filipino 11%; Sri Lankan5%; Bangladesh: 5%; Pakistani 4%; other (non-Qatari) Arab 13%; others: 7%.The government is careful and desists from using overtly racist terms. Theirconcern it seems is more on the skewed gender ratio. Of the 1,699,435 (April2012 census) people living here, 1,284,739 are Male and only 414, 696 female.Hence the attempt to keep the 'bachelors' out of malls, places of entertainment,residential areas. Who is going to call the bluff, when sensitive cultural and/orreligious rationalisation is in play.With that background let's get back to the HRW report: Building a Better WorldCup, Protecting Migrant Workers in Qatar Ahead of FIFA 2022.
Anything for kick-off
There you have it. The World Cup. That not so distant goal Qatar would reachwith ease and grace if only people stopped complaining.The blighted human wont is to complain, and complain some more, till we areheard. Since those who are wronged against are without a voice, so it falls whollyon those of us who can (without impunity even) to do so.In this case, interestingly, those at the very top seem to see the wrongs, but forfear of repercussions (the richest country in the world is still very tribal in it'sthinking and internal politics) are seeking voices other than their own to put pressure on the private sector to clean up its act.The same week as the HRW report was made public, Al Jazeera English
that 'beacon' of media freedom in the region
for the very first time sought to criticise