250 Workers Stranded in Uzbekistan, AP Sends SOS to Centre

Andhra Pradesh government today sought the Centre's intervention for the rescue of 250 construction workers from the state who are trapped in Uzbekistan after they were allegedly duped by the recruitment agents here.

State information minister Palle Raghunatha Reddy, who also looks after NRI affairs, has written to External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, requesting her to ensure that Indian embassy officials in Uzbekistan arrange their safe return.

"The 250 workers belong to Visakhapatnam and Vizianagaram districts. They were sent to Uzbekistan six months ago with the promise of higher wages but were forced to work in hostile conditions," Reddy told reporters here this evening.

Ravikrishna and Papa Rao of Pragna Building Institute at Gazuwaka near Vizag sent these workers through Placewell HRD Consultants of Hyderabad. They collected Rs 1.25 lakh from each worker promising salary Rs 60,000 per month.

"One of the workers, Venkatesh, spoke to me over phone this afternoon. They were being forced to work for 16 hours a day after their passports and visas were confiscated. They were forced to stay in dungeons with no proper food or drinking water," the minister said.

The employers at Engineering and Construction Company in Uzbekistan also allegedly beat up some of the workers.

"Venkatesh requested the government to rescue the harassed workers and accordingly I have appealed to the Union External Affairs Minister to take up the issue with the Indian Embassy. They should be transported in a plane to Hyderabad from where we will send them home," the minister said.

The crime investigation department had been asked to crack down on the agents who sent the workers to Uzbekistan, he added. "The agents have disappeared.. There could be several such unscrupulous agents and many gullible people might be undergoing similar trauma in foreign countries, mostly in the Gulf. We will crack down on them," he added.

Emerging story. Watch this space for updates as more details come in
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