Dubai: For Indian lawyer Bindu Suresh Chettur, who has over two decades of experience in the legal field in India and the UAE, giving back to the society got a new meaning when she started working in the UAE.
It has been 15 years since she started offering free legal counselling to Indians in distress, largely blue-collar workers, in association with the Indian Consulate in Dubai.
Seizing the opportunity to educate the less privileged and uneducated fellow countrymen suffering from a lack of knowledge about the laws and their rights here, Chettur initially became a panellist of advocates providing free legal counselling at the Indian Community Welfare Committee.
An advocate and legal consultant with Mohammad Salman Advocates and Legal Consultants, Chettur’s voluntary service and her acumen in winning some major cases in favour of Indian nationals quickly made her the go-to person for diplomats and officials when they needed legal advice to support the community members.
Lauding the UAE’s Year of Giving initiative, Chettur said being in the UAE gives plenty of opportunities for her to give back to the community in her own ways. “To me, serving the humanity is serving God and my duty is my worship. I wish to give my best to those in need in this Year of Giving and the years ahead.”
She shot into the limelight when the Indian government appointed her firm to save 17 Indians from death row after they were convicted in 2010 of murdering a Pakistani national.
It was quite natural for the government to avail her service when it started the Indian Workers’ Resource Centre (IWRC) with a 24-hour helpline and free legal, financial and psychological counselling services in 2011. Chettur has been offering free legal advice and counselling services at the centre since then.
Every Tuesday afternoon, distressed workers, and sometimes depressed couples, queue up to seek her advice on how to take life forward from the legal mire they are entangled in. Apart from guiding them on how they should proceed with the legal matters, Chettur’s pro-bono service includes visiting labour accommodations and community groups to conduct legal awareness programmes.
“The biggest problem is that most workers do not have any idea about the local rules or how their rights are protected here,” said Chettur.
Speaking at the recently concluded NRI conclave ‘Pravasi Bharatiya Divas’ in Bengaluru, Chettur proposed to the Indian government to make it mandatory to provide pre-emigration classes to Indian workers requiring emigration clearance about local rules in the UAE. She has also proposed to assign female workers from NGOs to verify employment details of women domestic workers going abroad.
“The IWRC booklet containing guidelines to workers should be given to all workers before they come over to work here. If people are coming over to look for a job on a visit visa, they must go back home and come through proper channels like the eMigrate system to avoid getting into trouble later. They should know whatever is given in the offer letter should be there in the labour contract and must be implemented,” she said.
If the employer who is ill-treating Indian workers is also an Indian, she said, the government should prosecute them back home. “There are articles in the Indian law, which say, if an Indian citizen commits any wrongful act against another Indian out of the territory of India, he can be tried in India as if he has committed the crime in India. All of them will stop their misdeeds when at least a few get punished.”
Since employers implicating workers in false cases and confiscating their passports have been common concerns, Chettur suggested that Indian missions here should facilitate the registration of Aadhar Card [India’s national ID card] here and keep a database of it. “Employees can also use the card to benefit from various schemes of the government.”
“The courts here are pro-employees. Unless and until there is a criminal case, workers need not hire a lawyer in labour cases,” she pointed out.
The only female board member of the Indian Business and Professional Council (IBPC) in Dubai in the recent years, Chettur is also at the forefront of empowering Indian women through the council.
“Women empowerment is very essential for the economic growth of a country. So, we are setting into motion a programme to provide a platform by enhancing their skills by giving free legal, business and expert advice and networking opportunities,” she said, adding that she also finds happiness in the act of giving by sharing lunch with less fortunate people around.