A businessman’s tale of how things went horribly wrong.
Last year, in August, my firm was subcontracted to work on a very prominent project in Qatar. I needed slightly over 200 skilled civil workers for the project and I decided to fly to Katmandu, Nepal, when the recruitment agency told me they had the said number of skilled workers in Janakpur already waiting. I was told Janakpur in Nepal would be a good place to recruit skilled civil workers from because the town is just 20 km away from the Indian border and residents often work on projects in India. The other reason I had decided to do the recruiting myself is because I wanted to make sure there was no exploitation of workers by unscrupulous agencies.
As soon as I landed in Nepal, the recruitment agency arranged for a translator to drive down with me to a village in Janakpur. It was an 18-hour drive but I couldn’t wait to get started. When we arrived in Janakpur, I was surprised to learn that there were less than 50 candidates actually available for recruitment. I was slightly disappointed but decided to interview them all. I made it very clear to them that they did not have to pay anybody for their ticket or visas; their accommodation and meals would be taken care of too; they would have a month to decide if they liked the job or preferred to return home, and if they had any questions they could call me on my Qatar mobile number, which I gave them, at any time.
We then proceeded to show them a video of Qatar, the kind of work they would be doing and their accommodation. I asked if they had any questions, nobody did. Again, I reminded them they did not have to pay anybody for the visa. The only fee they would be paying would be the sum of NPR 2800 (QR 102) to the Nepal Foreign Office. If they did not want to do any of this paperwork themselves, the recruitment agency would assist them until they boarded the flight and charge them around NPR 15,000 (QR 552) as a service fee, the rest, as mentioned previously, I would be paying for.
Twenty of the 50 present were selected and I told them their visas and tickets would be sent to the recruitment agency soon. I told them what their salary would be, and converted it into Nepali rupees for them to understand how much they would be making. They signed the contracts after saying they understood and accepted the terms. I told them to call me if they had any questions. I returned to Doha and sent the visas to the recruitment agency.
The scam starts at home
Despite my telling the candidates what costs they would incur if they went to the agency directly, like many other inexperienced young men from rural villages, they entrusted their future to the dalal (broker or subagent) “who understood the world of overseas work.” This is how dalals operate. They will go with the candidate to the agency, pick up the visa and ticket when it is ready, then go to a moneylender with a copy of the visa and have the candidate borrow anywhere from NPR 60,000 (QR 2200) to NPR 120,000 (QR 4382). A job in Malaysia can get the dalal over NPR 200,000 (QR 7300) for doing absolutely nothing.
In just a few years the number of recruitment agencies in Nepal has trebled with over a thousand registered officially today. While the registration fee for a recruitment agency is a steep NPR 2,500,000, it hasn’t been a deterrent. On the contrary every dalal now aspires to have his own recruitment agency, and that’s why the exploitation is so rampant say my business associates in Nepal. Anybody over the age of 18 is considered “export quality” by the local dalal whose mission it is to send them overseas.