MWPS Cases

Satyavathi’s Story

Published on October 22, 2012

Akana Satyavathi, aged 42 years, from the state of Andhra Pradesh, India, landed in Bahrain on 8th November 1991, to work as a domestic worker in Bahrain.

Little did she realize that she would be working here for 21 years without returning home even once!

On 3rd Sept 2012, Satyavathi, aged 63, approached the Indian Embassy in Bahrain requesting assistance to repatriate her to India. Earlier too, in July 2007 and again in March 2011, Satyavathi had approached the Embassy for assistance but, bothtimes, had been cajoled by her sponsor into returning and working for his household.

She raised eleven children of her employer and his wife, neglecting her own five children and husband in India for over two decades. She watched her employer’s children grow up, finish college and move on in life. Her own children wondered what had happened to their mother, who was only a faint memory in their minds.

While she continued to serve her employer’s family in Bahrain, Satyavathi’s five children grew up and got married in India. Satyavathi could not attend any of her five children’s weddings. Both her parents in India died while she was working in Bahrain. She could not attend their funerals and pay her last respects.

In 2002, a son of Satyavathi’s took up employment in Bahrain in order to locate and meet his mother, eleven years after his mother had left home. He was able to locate and contact her, but was only able to meet Satyavathi for few minutes outside her place of employment.

Satyavathi’s son on several occasions begged the employer to allow his mother to return home and be re-united with her family. The employer instead of heeding the request, threatened the son with imprisonment and deportation. Why do domestic workers like Satyavathi find themselves in such a predicament? The answers are not simple and are, in fact, very complicated.

Cynics would question the capacity of Satyavathi’s judgment and blame her for her situation: after all, why did she return to the employer in 2007 and 2011? Why was she not more forceful in exercising her rights? The sympathetic would try to delve deeper into the story.

Satyavathi is an illiterate woman from a rural area of Andhra Pradesh. She never attended school and does not know how to even sign her name. The thumb impression of Satyavathi on her passport perhaps in many ways tells her story. Economic compulsions force poor, un-educated women like Satyavathi to seek employment abroad.

When Satyavathi was referred to the Migrant Workers Protection Society (MWPS) shelter on 3rd September 2012, on further investigation it was found that Satyavathi’s residence permit had last been stamped on her passport in 1993, and had since never been renewed by the employer.

Satyavathi’s passport too expired on 15th Aug 1999 and her employer did not bring her to the Embassy to avail routine consular services and apply for a new passport.

Satyavathi was thus kept in an irregular, un-documented status by her employer for 17 years, as neither her passport nor her resident permit had ever been renewed. Why is no action being initiated against such an employer? Was it not the responsibility of Satyavathi’s employer to renew her resident permit and other legal documents?

Does Bahrain labour law not oblige an employer to buy an air ticket and send his worker home after two years of continuous employment? Can the whole burden of responsibility for Satyavathi’s situation fall only on this illiterate, rural woman or, finally, did the whole system fail this domestic worker? MWPS is now closely following up on her case with the full support and
cooperation of the Indian Embassy in the Kingdom of Bahrain.

Report by Mehru Vesuvala