India's visa revise spurs exit by laborers

Discussion in 'China' started by Quickgun Murugan, Nov 6, 2009.

  1. Quickgun Murugan

    Quickgun Murugan Regular Member

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    India's visa revise spurs exit by laborers

    India's visa revise spurs exit by laborers - People's Daily Online

    A new visa policy by India has driven some Chinese workers out and a concerned Chinese government to call for more consideration of businesses and laborers situated in the South Asian nation.

    The visa policy, issued in mid-July, mainly affects expatriates working in India on a business visa, which previously had been allowed for a wider range of occupations and employees.

    Approximately 25,000 Chinese workers in such sectors as power generation, communication and petroleum in India will be affected by the clampdown, according to media reports in India. Chinese businesses in South Asia generated $18 billion in 2008, mostly in India, according to Chinese experts.

    China's Ministry of Commerce voiced its deep concern about the new policy after it received many complaints from Chinese companies in India.


    "We hope India will be considerate of the circumstances of Chinese firms there and provide more convenience for Chinese laborers and firms,"
    said an official with the press office of the ministry who declined to give his name.

    The Foreign Ministry yesterday also warned Chinese citizens heading to work in India to acquire employment visas first.

    "Citizens can't be engaged in works that doesn't match with their visa category,"
    said a notice posted on the ministry's website.

    Experts said that India tightened its visa policy to help curb unskilled foreign laborers, who are mainly Chinese in the sectors of infrastructure.

    Hu Shisheng, scholar on South Asia Studies from China Institute of Contemporary International Relations, said the financial crisis that struck India's labor-intensive industries was the last straw that compelled the government to tighten its labor policy.

    "India has a huge population of young illiterate. They can depend on nothing but their labor to earn a living. So it's conceivable that the Indian government would want to protect its own labor force," Hu said.

    Those who fail to meet the government's new criteria for the business visa had a deadline ofOct 31 to leave the country. They can return to the country to work only if they meet the stricter criteria for a full employment visa.

    Many Chinese workers in India hold six-month visas known as a "Multiple Entry Business Visa". This has been the normal practice tolerated by the Indian government to save time on a visa application, a Chinese diplomat in India surnamed Li told China Daily.

    To acquire a work visa, approval must be given by India's Home Ministry. It requires a more rigorous vetting process as compared with the process of acquiring a business visa, for which invitation by a "recognized Indian organization" is vital, Li said.

    The Embassy of India in China also said on its website that business-visa holders can perform some short-term project work. Under the new rules, a business visa is only reserved for a smaller pool of senior executives, trade consultants and other specialists.

    Under the amended rules, foreign clerical, secretarial and unskilled workers will not be given work visas in India, a nation that has high unemployment and under-employment levels.

    Employment visas will not be "granted for jobs for which large numbers of qualified Indians are available," the Home Ministry said.

    The number of Chinese workers applying for the new work visas is currently unknown and the Indian Embassy in China was unavailable for comment yesterday.

    A manager surnamed Jiang with Huaxia Outbound Labor Service in Donghai county, Jiangsu province, where the largest number of workers in China goes abroad for work, told China Daily that about 20 native workers to India are on their way back.

    "We are confident in their skills, but they had to return as they were not able to get a visa," he said.

    Pan Xiaoyong, a technician with Huawei Technologies, a major Chinese telecommunications equipment supplier based in Shenzhen, said the firm is currently staging an urgent hunt for technicians holding India business visas to fill up the vacancies created by the new visa policy.

    Ding Qingfen, Hu Yongqi and AFP contributed to the story.
     
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  3. Quickgun Murugan

    Quickgun Murugan Regular Member

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    Is this the Indian reply to Chinese ambiguity in issuing visas to Kashmir's and Arunachals?
     
  4. Daredevil

    Daredevil On Vacation! Administrator

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    I don't think so. These are two completely different issues. But a good step by government for protecting the interests of unskilled Indian labor.
     
  5. Quickgun Murugan

    Quickgun Murugan Regular Member

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    I definitely feel there is a link. Though the issue of labor import is absolutely genuine and is definitely not new.But, this issue never got raked until recent events on Chinese embassy side. Though not exactly a retaliatory response, it is some response atleast.
     
  6. qilaotou

    qilaotou Regular Member

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  7. Quickgun Murugan

    Quickgun Murugan Regular Member

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    China has overtaken US as India's largest trading partner? Now that's news to me!!

    Hope China understands that India too has a huge population to support. 25000 lost jobs to Chinese in India means 25000 jobs to jobless Indians in India.
     
  8. qilaotou

    qilaotou Regular Member

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    I think Indian government is right to impose restrictions on business visa. The question is if some consideration should be given to those contracted projects that are already ongoing or half way through. What these Chinese companies are engineers, technicians and people needed for smooth operation. Such a sudden change would increase operational cost as well as some difficulties to meet the timeframes because of time spent on new recruits. I guess some companies would prefer to quit the contract if it is an option.
     
  9. ZOOM

    ZOOM Founding Member

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    In my opinion, you simply creating an unnecessary hype about possible increase in Operational cost of the various projects being undertaken by Chinese Companies in India. Decision pertaining to disallowing Unskilled or Semi-Skilled Chinese workers is truly based on giving similar opportunity to their Indian counterparts which would proved to be even less costly as Indian labourer would certainly willing to work at much lower Salary then Chinese workers. Remember, Chinese workers regardless of their designation are way away from their homeland and hence must be getting several manifold higher salary then what they may have got on their home turf. Don't forget, departure of Chinese workers from such project for any unknown reasons will cost much greater then departure of Indian workers while undertaking projects on Indian mainland.

    At the same time, GOI is not unnecessarily targetting Chinese companies from such minor diversion in Policy, rather it is keeping in mind, since it never mindlessly interferred with working manners of any Domestic or Multi-National companies, since it is fully mindful about the fact that, whatever work especially in Power generation domain that is being undertaken mainly by Chinese companies are very sensitive in nature and would rather cost higher to GOI itself, if it creater unfair conditions for Chinese companies. You can take the examples of Arab countries, which always hires foriegn unskilled and semi-skilled workers to rather arrest higher operational cost.

    One more thing I would like add, Chinese companies can ill-afford to exit projects in India as it won't gone get such thriving foreign market anywhere else and hence will certainly create major danger to its long term interest if it ever propose to carry out major project anywhere in the world.:twizt:
     
  10. Daredevil

    Daredevil On Vacation! Administrator

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    LABOUR CHINESE WORKERS

    With Chinese contracts come illegal Chinese workers, swamping the worksites

    DEBARSHI DASGUPTA

    The Issue: Import of thousands of Chinese unskilled, semi-skilled workers who have taken jobs away from many Indians.

    Why Now: Chinese firms have won numerous contracts in India. They have flown in their workers for various reasons, including linguistic compatibility and reducing unemployment back home.

    What They Do: Since most of these companies are building power plants and steel factories, the unskilled and semi-skilled workers include carpenters, welders, masons, drivers etc.

    Is It Legal: Import of any unskilled and semi-skilled labour is prohibited. Most of them are here on ‘illegal’ business visas. Even if skilled workers come on business visas, it does not allow them to be employed.
    Total Chinese workers 25,000

    ***

    Our Workers

    Paid minimum wage, takes home Rs 87 per day after deductions
    Have no uniforms
    Enjoy no added benefits
    Considered not equally “efficient”
    Speak no English or Mandarin
    ***

    Their Workers

    Chinese co-worker said to earn Rs 1,700 a day
    Have uniforms with bright colours
    Live in AC barracks with Chinese food and TV
    ”Dedicated” and “deadline-oriented”
    Speak no Hindi or English
    ***

    Where The Chinese Are Working

    [​IMG]


    ***

    It’s after sundown in Chandankiyari, a village near Bokaro in Jharkhand, and the only sound audible is of howling hyenas in the distance. But strain the ears and you catch snatches of a foreign movie playing. The film, strangely, is in Mandarin and it’s for the benefit of the hundreds of Chinese workers here at the site for a steel plant. Watching one of their movies on the big screen is a relaxing way to end the day.

    They are not alone. Across the country, several thousands of Chinese workers are at work on infrastructure projects bagged by Chinese contractors. But the arrangement is not without controversy—the hordes of unskilled/semi-skilled imports from China are taking jobs from the unemployed Indian. One estimate put their total number—skilled and unskilled together—at around 25,000. Things have come to a head of late—at least three instances of xenophobic violence have been reported between Indian and Chinese workers in less than a year. Differences arise notably out of language problems and the “obscene” pay disparities—domestic workers get Rs 87 a day while a Chinese co-worker, according to one account from an Indian worker, gets Rs 1,700 a day. Things get that much more tricky because these workers are here in complete violation of Indian visa guidelines which prohibit entry of such labour.



    As an EIL worker put it, “About 25% of the Chinese are manual workers...not much to learn from them.”


    The upcoming steel factory in Chandankiyari for the Calcutta-based Electrosteel Integrated Limited (EIL) clearly illustrates the problem. The Indian firm has contracted the construction to two Chinese firms: China First Metallurgical Construction Company and 23rd Metallurgical Construction Company. With a contract valued at over Rs 11,000 crore, the plant will be spread over 2,500 acres and is expected to be completed in June 2010. Construction began in March this year. Working at breakneck speed to achieve this ambitious deadline, around 500 Chinese engineers and workers are currently at the site along with 3,000 Indian workers. Their presence has come down from about 1,200 earlier this year after Indian authorities cracked down on ‘illegal’ foreign workers.
    What has caught the government unawares is that almost all of these ‘illegal’ personnel were here on ‘business visas’—explicitly meant for skilled people here on short-term visits who will not take up employment. This raises two worrying possibilities. The first: the Chinese are regularly passing off semi-skilled labour as skilled to bypass Indian regulations. The second: the Indian visa-issuing authorities in Beijing have been slipshod with their work.

    Alka Acharya, associate professor of Chinese studies at Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University, asks, “The Chinese may be bringing in unskilled labour as skilled. But is there an agency that verifies how exactly the visa is issued and what information is sought from agencies and workers?” Waking up to the problem, Union home minister P. Chidambaram said recently that no visas will be issued to Chinese unskilled and semi-skilled workers. Acharya adds, “What the government is doing at stage five today should have been done long back, at stage one.” A peeved labour ministry has also made it clear that visa guidelines must be respected (see interview). Trade union leaders aren’t pleased either. G. Sanjeeva Reddy, Rajya Sabha member and president of the Indian National Trade Union Congress, says, “This creates a labour surplus when there are already so many unemployed, semi-skilled Indians. We need to act, focus on organising migration from states where there is a skilled labour surplus.”

    When Outlook visited Chandankiyari, nearly all the Chinese workers seemed engaged in “semi-skilled” activities related to construction like bending and cutting iron rods, sawing wooden planks, driving and erecting foundations for tall structures. But plant director R.S. Singh maintained they were “skilled technicians of high quality”. “They may be carpenters but they have special skills suited to build plants,” he says. That said, of the 500 stationed here, only 150 now have job visas. Given India’s troubled relationship with China, they find it difficult and time-consuming to get employment visas as it requires clearance from the ministry of home affairs.

    Meanwhile, at the work site, there are further complications. Almost nobody among the Chinese workers speak Hindi or English and the few English-speaking interpreters are hardly at hand. Communication is mostly through gestures. “They just point forcefully in a direction when they want us to work,” says an Indian worker. “Often we end up bringing rods when they want us to bring pipes.”

    The Chinese presence has also generated tension among those who had given up land for the factory—but have not got jobs in return. Abul Ansari, member of the Jharkhand Raiyat (land-givers) Sangharsh Samiti, says, “Much of the work the Chinese do can be done by us, like that of carpenters and welders.” Group members and villagers from nearby Chandaha can often be seen protesting outside the plant, but if you believe R.S. Singh it’s this year’s drought that has “created the additional unemployment”.

    Inside the plant too, work has not been incident-free. In May this year, violence flared up after one of the Indian workers was sacked for being absent. Police had to be called in but not before workers from both sides suffered injuries. Xenophobic altercations have also been reported from Bengal, including one in March this year at the Durgapur Projects Limited plant after Indian workers questioned the Chinese technical experts on site. As an EIL worker put it, “About 25 per cent of them are manual workers like us. There’s not much to learn from them.” The Indian workers requested anonymity for fear of retribution. The Chinese officials, on the other hand, refused to speak to us, even after an interpreter had been arranged.

    However, Outlook did gain access into the Chinese walled residential compound. Built like a military base, it had air-conditioned barracks and amenities like a basketball court, a Chinese canteen and cable TV, among other facilities the Indian workers couldn’t possibly dream of. As an Indian worker put it, “The Chinese get rum bottles, water bottles and we don’t even have a tubewell.” The compound is constantly guarded given the tensions with the locals.

    Clearly, the Chinese, despite being famous for cheap products, do not come cheap. But the Indian management isn’t complaining. R.S. Singh refused to divulge financial details but says the Chinese are very “cost-effective”. “They’ll set up this plant in 15 months whereas a plant of a similar nature would take an Indian enterprise eight years,” he says. D.S. Rajan, director, Centre for China Studies, Chennai, agrees on that point. “They behave very well collectively with an inclination to complete projects in time. Indians tend to be more individualistic.”

    While the Chinese firms may feel the need for workers from home, given linguistic and cultural compatibility, what may be the real driver is their government’s “Go Abroad” policy. With high unemployment in China, the state financially assists Chinese firms in expanding worldwide so as to provide employment to its nationals. Of late, Indian enterprises also often prefer them because of the “complex and restrictive” labour laws Indian workers are governed by.

    Chinese workers now work for private and government projects—on the one hand it’s projects for Reliance Industries and Adani Group while on the other it’s government power projects in Bengal. The Delhi International Airport Limited (DIAL) has 56 of them working on a “glass curtain wall”. A DIAL spokesman did not comment on why they had made an additional request for 140 Chinese workers earlier this year (a request the government shot down). And the Chinese force working on a road in Himachal Pradesh was recently trimmed from 80 to an “essential” ten. This brings up the hotly contested question: are all Chinese workers here “engineers” and “technicians” with skills irreplaceable by Indians? Speaking at a meet in China, Indian ambassador S. Jaishankar said he couldn’t recall any projects requiring “such large manpower support from home” and urged the Chinese to think of an “India-specific approach”.

    But is international labour mobility something to be be shunned? Not at the cost of resentment at home, says Rajan. “At no point should the locals feel that outsiders are taking away their jobs,” he says. To get there, Gautam Mody, secretary of the Delhi-based New Trade Union Initiative (NTUI), insists on three things: registration of agencies, clear classification of skills that need to be imported and certification of those skills. Given our controversial experience with Chinese workers, India is nowhere near establishing those three.
     

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