Iraq war forces Indian workers home

TRIVANDRUM, India – Airports all over India are now overflowing with workers returning from the Middle East. Every day thousands of Indians are coming back, leaving their life-long earnings and their dreams of a better life behind with their jobs. India’s economy will be affected by the war on Iraq. India relies on Gulf states for the bulk of its oil supplies and nearly 3.5 million Indian expatriates are employed in the region. These workers pumped foreign currency into the Indian economy. Ninety percent of foreign money transactions had been done by Non-Resident Indians (NRI), who live and work in the Gulf region. The banking sector is struggling because of no revenue from their NRI customers.

Large and small-scale industries in India are also in trouble now. Goods transportation is showing negative signals due to the drastically hiking oil prices. People are forced to pay high prices for food and drinking water. Agricultural exports to the Gulf countries have come to a standstill.

Retail shops are also facing economic problems because the buying capacity of most people has been in distress since the gathering of war clouds over the Middle East.

The government of India is in a dilemma both politically and economically. Many state governments are also facing the same problem, even though special task forces are working overtime to tackle the problems.

Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee has no specific plan about how to integrate the returnees into the economy. He has been “asked” by George W. Bush three times to “help” in the war. Demonstrations are taking place against the war and the Bush administration with a high degree of anger. The majority of people in India, like in many other nations, agree that this war is illegitimate, inhuman and totally unnecessary.

On March 22, thousands of people from many different backgrounds gathered in New Delhi and marched to the U.S embassy.

Political party leaders, members of parliament, activists, school children, film actors, workers and laborers from various sectors took part in the march. Police blocked them some 50 meters away from the main gate of embassy.

But a brave group of 22 protesters slipped away from the crowd and rushed to the embassy gate. They chained themselves to a fence near the main gate. The police had to call in for help from Delhi Corporation authorities to cut the chains using heavy equipment.

Participatants in the action included former Prime Minister of India I.K.Gujral, General Secretary of the All India Democratic Women’s Association Brinda Karat, Communist Party of India (Marxist) General Secretary Harkishan Singh Surjeet and Communist Party of India leader D. Raja.

Reknowned writer Arundhathi Roy said that the U.S. should be expelled from the United Nations for its blatant violation of international law. She appealed to people to impose ‘sanctions’ on America by boycotting American goods.

Three hundred thousand people marched through the streets of Kolkata on March 30 to register an emphatic and vociferous protest against the U.S. aggression on Iraq. The city, long known for its anti-imperialist, anti-war traditions, reverberated with slogans condemning the U.S. aggression and unequivocally called for a cessation of the war. Though the city saw protest rallies the day the U.S.-British aggression began, Sunday’s march was by far the biggest. The march was organized by the nine-party Left Front and several other parties.

A day earlier, on March 29, Left-led students’ organizations called a statewide students strike.

The author can be reached at pww@pww.org