Dubai is associated with grandeur. It is like going back to the era of the Arabian nights with lovely palaces, artificial islands and synthetic beaches. Add to this the massive and tall glass structures then I dare say even the rulers of the golden age in the middle east would feel shy. It is sheer glory and naked display of wealth.
But this opulence is only on the lid. Uncover the lid and dark world of privatization, coercion and deceit come to the fore. Visitors to Dubai putting up at the luxury hotels and playing golf on the greens may not notice that a line of men clad in blue overall lining up to travel even before the sun rises. These are the wretched work force of almost 300,000 that have made the dreams of Mohammed the ruler come true. Dubai is sold as an El Dorado-the city of gold, but for these workers gold is only in name as they are put up in a place called Sonapur( city of gold) on the outskirts of Dubai
A lot of people told me that these workers should be thankful that Mohammed the ruler of Dubai has given them work .They say it is his benevolence that they are earning money here. But the facts are very harsh and once the mask is removed it can be a sickening experience. These workers most of them poor and illiterate from the sub continent have been lured by agents who promise them high salaries and wages and a better life are in fact part of the biggest con game in history. These men have to work in temperatures hovering at 55 degrees for 10 hours each day with only one day in the week as a rest day. They stay at Sonapur in unhealthy camps in single rooms sometimes crammed 5 or 6 together ,sharing and jostling for sleeping place. They cook their own rice and food on one gas stove provided. The living conditions to say the least are primitive.
That is not all the workers are enticed by agents for ‘work visa’ that may cost them nearly £2,000 ($2,980).This is illegal but the authorities just wink at it. Most workers coming to Dubai just toil. Wages are meager and their passports are taken from them and they have nowhere to go and in real terms at the mercy of their employers. The contracts given to these workers are good on paper but that is all. Who will enforce them ?. Not the workers who are just a necessary appendage to the development of Dubai.
The sad part is that is city is marketed by eminent sports persons and players .For what ? Perhaps people like Tiger Woods and Micheal Owen are not aware of the conditions of these workers. They dare not ask for anything as unions are forbidden. Suicides take place and the rulers just shrug their shoulders. The present down slide in Dubai has seen thousands of workers being asked to leave and no wages paid to them. Some who had gone on leave were simply asked not to return.
The Dubai Municipal government claims that regular inspections are carried out. They say that in case any company makes their workers live in poor conditions the company is fined. But that is all on paper. The promised land of gold is a very sad end. Will any body intervene?