Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Missionary Priest involved in Employment Fraud?

Kerala has witnessed innumerous employment frauds in the recent past when social and economic structure of this State ear marked a good percentage of its youth to be ‘Pravasis’ or Migrant Workers. We may have developed apathy towards all such stories, the reason why this new incident is not given enough attention by the ubiquitous regional media in the State. I may be wrong in judging this to be a case of fraud, for it is yet to be proved that the ‘Employment Abroad Promise’ given to hundreds of candidates in this case is broken beyond repair. Doesn’t matter, my objective is only to expose the unfortunate plight of hundreds of youth in the regions of Aloor, Thumbur, Mala, Kodakara etc. in Thrissur District, Kerala. For a common reader this may be just a new case of fraud without any visible villain, without thrillers and without any immediate climax and turning point to the story, but for these people who have paid an amount of Rs. 75 thousand to Rs. 3 lakhs for a job in the unskilled sector, it is a question of life and death, of hope and desperation, of endless waiting and human fundamental right.

What makes this story exceptional is the involvement of a missionary priest in the whole event which provided a vain assurance of transparency to the whole procedure. Fr. Thomas Kulathungal, Superior, Paduva Fransiscan Monastery, Puthanchira, was kind enough to announce some job opportunities in United Kingdom along with his spiritual preaching in the above said regions. As we know, those who are spiritually poor are also generally poor in their material existence. For them, a job offer or anything that can alleviate their poverty can be of immediate value. Many people, from the President of Kodakara Panchayat to computer professionals paid sums between Rs. 75 thousand to Rs.3 lakhs for their visa to UK as unskilled labourers in the Airports of UK.

Now, some details of dates and addresses:

December 2004:
Fr. Thomas announces that he has direct contacts with a recruiting agency in UK which provides visas for unskilled labourers in the Airports of UK; collects Rs. 1.5 lakh on average from around 500 people as initial payment.

Thekkady Manpower Services Pvt. Ltd., Plavuvachathil Building, Thekkady Road, Kumily, Idukki – Kerala is said to be the recruiting agency involved in this deal.

Fr. Thomas along with his aide P.A. Joseph, a Congress leader from Kumily, gave repeated assurance to the job seekers by showing them a copy of ‘Power of Attorney’ given by Assany Abroad Consultancy, UK. In this document, with mistaken spellings in several places, it has been declared that Assany has given all the power to Thekkady Manpower Services to function as an authorized agency in India and to recruit the required manpower for this project. “The power is to collect Passports, Certificates, Medical Repoets, Visas, Airline Tickets and any other documents and to do all activities required for the prospective worker for employment abroad”, it says. But when the job seekers, who paid large sums for their visas, tried to reach Assany’s office over phone, they got a computerized message that the phone number is not in use for several months. From the standard of English used in several documents and for several other reasons many fear that the UK based consultancy is bogus.

From the letter head:
Assany Abroad Consultancy
(Manpower Supply Agency UK)
Suite 789, 2 Old Brompton Rd., London Sw 7 300 U.K.
Ph: 0044175369, 2184

Allen Frost
Executive Director

What next?
Despite repeated assurance from Fr. Thomas and all those who are associated with this recruitment deal, the job seekers’ future remains bleak. For more than 18 months they have been waiting for their visas. Many have refused even other job offers received by them from abroad, while many were hesitant to take up full fledged jobs thinking that they may receive their visa to UK at any time. “License, Insurance, Interview, Medical Report, Visa stamping, Consulate, Bomb blast: these are the key words used by the concerned persons in this deal to buy time from the ignorant job seekers and to postpone everything infinitely. What a pity!”, quips Babu, an outsider to the entire drama.

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