A call to recognize the misery of our migrant workers
I hope you are keeping well and your “batteries” are charged enough. As you know, it’s a difficult time for the entire world, and I have been wondering what you are doing about your batteries. Are they able to get enough supply fully charged? I wasn’t quite sure that you would be free enough to give these answers, so what I did was, I went ahead and asked one of your batteries instead.
His name is Abdul Rahman. He is a 39-year-old, hardworking Bangladeshi migrant worker. He has been working in Malaysia for the last 13 years as a construction worker. According to the World Bank, Bangladesh is now one of the highest recipients of remittance -- with almost $20 billion in 2020. It was the eighth highest recipient of remittance in the world.
I asked Abdul Rahman about how his life was going. He answered, “good” with a not-so-bright smile. I figured it meant that the situation was not good or favourable. As my primary concern was to know how he had been doing during Covid-19, I started to ask as many questions possible. But all of his answers were in the realm of “Mmm … fine ... aaa … good … hmmm … okay ... right ... (sigh)…”
It took me little time to realize that he was not willing to open up. In my mind, I was thinking that maybe these answers were because of some insecurities of the time such as the fear of losing his job, being targeted as a rebel, or simply to avoid conflict like getting jailed by the local police.
I kept asking about his monthly income, living standards, and other such relevant details. I wanted to know if he was happy with his financial condition. Essentially, what he was mostly concerned about, his insecurities, and other such details.
This time, however, his answer made me feel really small and insignificant as a human being. There was a bit of shame for me also. He said, “I am capable of making money; I know how to work hard; yet I don’t know what people like me did to be treated so insignificantly by my own people.”
There are many Bangladeshis who have been serving their country, yet most of them are not even acknowledged. They are taken for granted. Their sacrifices go unnoticed.
They are not asking for any rewards, all they want is a bit of respect from their own country, their own people. That country that is extremely dependent on the money they are sending back in the form of remittance, money that is a foundational cornerstone to the development of the economy.
I think it’s high time to rethink the foundation and recheck our priorities. When the world faces a pandemic like Covid-19, anything can happen. These people, who are literally powering our nation for the future, need and deserve our help. If not help, at least some respect, acknowledgement, and appreciation.
Sadia Nourin is a student of Media and Communications Studies, University of Malaysia.