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Sat 19 Aug 2006 04:00 AM

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Embassy warning to loan sharks

Indian ambassador to Bahrain says that money lenders will be arrested if they hassle families of fire victims

The Indian ambassador to Bahrain has warned that if loan sharks approach the families of the 16 workers that died in the Bahrain fire tragedy, demanding repayment, they will be arrested.

It follows reports that the relatives of some of the victims could be forced to use their compensation money to pay back the original loans taken out by the men who died in the blaze.

The victims, all employees of the Royal Tower Construction Company, died when a fire broke out in their Gudaibiya labour camp last month.

All of the men came from rural areas in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Most of them are believed to have taken loans at high interest rates from village money lenders to pay off the labour agents who found them jobs.

The Tamil Nadu government is paying out compensation of US $4,000 (INR185,000) to each of the families of those who died.

Speaking to Construction Week, the Indian ambassador to Bahrain, Balkrishna Shetty, said: “These families have lost their main breadwinners and the compensation money is meant for their own needs so that they can survive and not to pay off these rogue money lenders. If any one as much as even attempts to approach these families demanding to be paid back, they will be arrested.”

He added: “We will not let these rogue recruiting agents take any money from these families as they were not supposed to take this money to begin with,” he said.

“It is illegal and they will be brought to task. These are poor people and the money that has been given to them is not a payment that is to be passed onto these scoundrels. This money is to support the families and not for repaying their debts. Infact, it is illegal to charge this money from these people.”

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