November 1, 2022 Special Dispatch No. 10293

Ahead Of The FIFA 2022 World Cup In Qatar, The Indian Express Investigates Qatar's Rights Abuses And Indian Migrant Workers Returning 'In Coffins'; Indian Ambassador In Doha Refuses To Respond

November 1, 2022
Qatar | Special Dispatch No. 10293

Following an investigation that lasted for more than eight months, The Indian Express, a leading Indian newspaper, has published a series of reports that reveal a shocking record of Qatar's abuses of migrant workers' rights, with work-related deaths passed off as suicides and heart failures, and no compensation provided by either the Qatari government or the employers.

Mihir Vasavda, the journalist who led the work on the investigative reports, wrote: "As the football World Cup begins [in Qatar on November 20, 2022], all eyes will be on the glittering 60,000-seat Al-Bayt stadium in Doha, an architectural marvel that, in its nomadic tent-like frame, pays tribute to Qatar's past and future. In the shadow of the Qatar World Cup will be the stories of migrant workers from India who poured into the Gulf state to turn this unlikely desert destination into a global football hub and returned home to their families in villages from [the Indian states of] Bihar to Punjab and Telangana – in coffins."[1]

Some of the Indian migrant workers who died building Qatar's football stadium.

The Indian Express journalist spoke with the families of several migrant workers who died while working in Qatar and discovered that Qatari officials categorized their deaths as resulting from suicide or heart failure. The employers did not respond to questions from the Indian newspaper regarding compensation and the conditions under which the workers died. Although there are millions of Indian workers engaged in low-skilled jobs across the Middle East, it appears that Indian embassies are not doing enough to protect the rights of Indian migrant workers.

The Indian ambassador in Qatar refused to provide any concrete information about the number of fatalities among the Indian migrants working on projects related to the World Cup. In response to a query from The Indian Express, the Indian embassy in Doha in May 2022 stated: "Information is not available with the Embassy of India, Doha." The Indian Express wrote another query to the Indian embassy in Doha, but "The Embassy did not respond to a questionnaire emailed by The Indian Express on Tuesday [October 18, 2022] listing the nine workers it had tracked down along with the passport numbers of eight of them."[2]

The lack of protection provided to migrant workers exists despite India having a complete record of each worker going to work in Qatar or elsewhere in the Middle East, with workers leaving India only after a doctor in India certifies that they are fit to work. According to the Indian government statistics, 72,114 workers went to work in Qatar during the three years (2020-2022). Hundreds of these workers, who are typically recruited at around the age of 40, die every year. The Indian daily's reports reveal many instances where the migrant workers in Qatar remain unprotected.

In his reports, Mihir Vasavda, the lead author of the investigation, observed: "Workers who have returned from World Cup projects say they were made to toil for long hours in harsh weather conditions, provided unsanitary accommodation, and had to work in unsafe conditions at construction sites."

Shravan Velmal, who returned from Qatar after his father died of heart failure while working in Doha, summed up the misery of Indian workers: "After landing there, we submitted our passports to employers. We woke up at 3 am or 4 am every day so we could start work at 5 am, before the temperatures increased. Normally, our work ended around 6 pm. Often, we did not get a chance to take a break. Fridays used to be our day off, but the entire day was spent recovering so you couldn't do anything else."[3]

Rajendra Prabhu Mandaloji – who was promised a salary of 2,500 Qatari riyals but upon arrival in Doha was offered 1,000 riyals for the same job under a substitute contract – died, allegedly by suicide, but no compensation was offered.[4] In April 2016, Jaleshwar Prasad, a steelworker, was inside the players' tunnel of Al-Bayt Stadium when he died. Two hours later, he was declared dead of "heart failure due to acute respiratory failure."[5] Latha Bollapally from Mendora village in Telangana, whose husband Madhu died from "heart failure" in November 2021 while working in Qatar, said there was no compensation given.[6] Ashique, whose father Abdul Majid died in July 2020, said: "We received two months' outstanding wages. No compensation."[7]

In an interview with the newspaper, Bheem Reddy Mandha, president of the Emigrants Welfare Forum, linked the deaths of migrant workers to the construction work done on the World Cup stadium, saying: "Everything is related. Before leaving (for Qatar), the person is healthy. After going there, people, including those below 40 years, are dying, many because of cardiac arrest. It's a serious question."[8]

The Indian daily's investigative report discovered that the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, the Qatari government organization charged with delivering the World Cup, acknowledged only 40 migrant worker deaths from across the world but "classified only three as work-related."[9] The Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy was asked about the process it followed to register the death of a migrant worker and related statistics, but the Committee's "reply was silent on the issue of compensation and whether the cause of these deaths would be analyzed."[10]

In an editorial, titled "Death Of A Worker: Qatar Deaths Should Prod A Reorienting Of Public Policy For Migrant Workers," while urging Indian embassies "to prioritize the concerns of migrant workers," The Indian Express, noted: "In November, as fans from across the world arrive in Qatar to watch arguably the greatest soccer spectacle in the world at eight state-of-the-art stadiums, few are likely to remember the thousands of labourers, a large number from India, who built these stadiums and paid a price for it."[11]


[1] The Indian Express (India), October 20, 2022. The original English of the quoted text in this dispatch has been lightly edited for clarity and standardization.

[2] The Indian Express (India), October 20, 2022.

[3] The Indian Express (India), October 20, 2022.

[4] The Indian Express (India), October 20, 2022.

[5] The Indian Express (India), October 20, 2022.

[6] The Indian Express (India), October 20, 2022.

[7] The Indian Express (India), October 20, 2022.

[8] The Indian Express (India), October 20, 2022.

[9] The Indian Express (India), October 20, 2022.

[10] The Indian Express (India), October 20, 2022.

[11] The Indian Express (India), October 21, 2022.

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