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Israeli Recruiters Keep Mum on Job Conditions as Indian Workers Rush to Apply

author Asad Rizvi
Jan 30, 2024
"There is no bigger risk than poverty," one of the aspiring workers said.

Lucknow: A large crowd of labourers having been queuing up every morning at the Industrial Training Institute (ITI), Lucknow, trying their hand at the recruitment drive for Indian workers willing to go to Israel.

These drives have been organised ever since Israel suspended the work permits of thousands of Palestinians after October 7, leading to a shortage of workers. In India, workers have been expressing immense interest in these jobs despite the perceived security risks. The labour union All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC) views this hiring campaign as a failure of the Narendra Modi-led Union government’s promise of generating two crore jobs per year. Opposition parties have also criticised the move, saying it involves dangers for the workers.

Interestingly, the Israelis want to keep this recruitment drive opaque, while their Indian counterparts are disseminating the effort through district labourer offices, social media, advertisements, etc. to encourage more and more labourers to participate.

Labourers from different parts of the nation, skilled in shuttering, iron bending, ceramic tiling or plastering, are applying. The Uttar Pradesh government released advertisements for 10,000 jobs in Israel: 3,000 vacancies for a shuttering carpenter, 3,000 for iron bending, 2,000 for ceramic tiling, and 2,000 for plastering.

The Israeli government agency Population, Immigration, and Border Authority (PIBA) is offering a salary of between Rs 1,36,000 and Rs 1,37,000 per month to these labourers. The PIBA recruitment drive is being felicitated by the National Skills Development Corporation (NSDC).

The Ministry of Finance established the NSDC as a not-for-profit public limited company using a public-private partnership (PPP) model. The Government of India, through the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship (MSDE), holds 49% of the share capital of NSDC.

The Wire talked with some aspirants who came to ITI Lucknow to appear in the ongoing recruitment process for Israeli jobs. Pushpendra Kumar, a photographer from Sambhal district, was disappointed as the bank rejected his application for a loan to buy camera lenses.

Subsequently, he learned about Israeli jobs through the newspaper; he went to the local labour office and registered his name there. Kumar said that he was sent to take part in the recruitment drive by the labour department.

“Yes, I am putting my life in danger to earn money for my children’s future. I am well aware of the ongoing conflict between Palestine and Israel,” Kumar said. “If a bank approves my small genuine loan, why do I intend to leave my kids alone at home and go to a war-torn nation?”

The recruitment drive at ITI Lucknow. Photo: Asad Rizvi

Simran Deep Singh, residing in Punjab, came to Lucknow to try to go to Israel to work as a construction labourer. Despite being aware of the conflict, Singh, who passed the metric exam, said he wishes to travel to Israel because he could not find employment in India.

Another job aspirant, Deepak Kumar, said that he comes from a low-income household in the Jalaun district, where his father works as a labourer and makes bricks. “I prefer to live in a red zone rather than live jobless at home,” he said, adding that “Rs 1.36 lakh is a big offer for me who has no work here.”

He went on to say, “I decided to go there to earn money because, despite my best efforts, I was unable to find any work here so far. Whenever I return home from Israel, I will use my savings to launch my own business in my hometown.”

Ashish Mishra spoke to The Wire while returning to his home in Azamgarh after appearing for an interview for a carpenter’s position. He said, “It is difficult to live with jobs that pay only Rs 8,000-10,000 (per month) here at a time when inflation is very high.”

“I’m not sure when the interview results will be announced,” Mishra ssaid. However, he was confident about getting work in Israel, although he was also unaware of the terms and conditions of the job, like the other aspirants. According to him, nobody told them about it.

“I know that there is a risk to life there in Israel, but there is no bigger risk than poverty,” said Satish Kumar Yadav, a carpenter who had earlier worked in Qatar. Yadav returned from Qatar in July last year, where he was earning more than Rs 25,000 per month. But since coming back from there, he has been jobless so far.

Meanwhile, the opposition Congress attacked the Modi government and said the recruitment drives for jobs in war-hit Israel reflect that the country is passing through a time of massive unemployment and poverty, the same as seen in the pre-independence era, forcing labourers to look for job openings in red zones.

The Modi government was also criticised by the Congress’s UP unit for its discrimination based on economic status. “Why is the Modi government sending poor nationals to work today when it evacuated Indian citizens from Israel during the war a few months ago through “Operation Ajay”? No government should discriminate against people based on their economic situation. We want the hiring process to be immediately stopped,” Congress leader Shahnawaz Alam said.

Alam, who is also a part of the Congress’s minority cell, said that in a prolonged conflict scenario, the proposal to send labourers would bring shame and establish the fact that the BJP government made the country poor and weak. The Congress also sent memoranda to governors via district authorities to stop the drive.

The recruitment drive at ITI Lucknow. Photo: Asad Rizvi

Chander Shekhar, UP state general secretary of the All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), said this recruitment operation during the war was suspicious and also highlighted the inflation and unemployment prevalent in the country. He also said that the government was overlooking the security of migrant labourers.

Mazhar Azeez Khan, placement officer at ITI, told The Wire that on January 23, a total of 528 students appeared for screening, of whom 365 passed the test. This figure increased on January 24, when 795 candidates appeared in the test and 531 emerged successful. Similarly, on January 25, the number of candidates appearing climbed to 1,023, out of which 799 passed.

Raj Kumar Yadav, principal of ITI Lucknow, said that the authorities in Israel and India both support the recruitment drive. Yadav also said they were facilitating recruiters from Israel looking for 10,000 skilled construction workers who could earn a respectable salary per month.

Yadav also told The Wire that Israelis will give visas to selected aspirants and take them on a chartered plane. He expressed hope that “10,000 families will be fed well and will grow”. The Israeli recruitment team refused to speak to The Wire or answer any questions about the drive, the terms and conditions of the jobs, or anything else.

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