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Kuwait, India ink accord on recruitment of nurses – Hiring will be done only through govt agencies

KUWAIT: The Ministry of Health (MoH) and the Indian Embassy yesterday signed an agreement finalizing the modalities of recruitment of nurses from India and paving the way for hiring nurses only through three government agencies. Dr Mahmoud Al-Abdulhadi, assistant undersecretary for legal affairs at the MoH, and Dr Jamal Mansour Al-Harbi, assistant undersecretary for medical services affairs at the MoH, and Indian Ambassador Sunil Jain signed the agreement at a brief ceremony held at the MoH yesterday.

The agreement puts to rest uncertainty over the issue that has been hanging ever since India banned overseas recruitment of nurses by private agencies from April 30, 2015. Several agents in India had even moved court to challenge the government decision.

After signing the agreement, the officials expressed optimism that the agreement would put an end to large-scale corruption and cheating by private recruiting agents who used to recruit nurses from India to Kuwait after taking huge sums as bribes and commission. “Both Kuwait and Indian authorities will work together to make recruitments of nurses corruption-free and transparent,” Jain told Kuwait Times.

The ministry of health plans to recruit nearly 3,000 nurses within a year and the majority of them will be from Kerala. The India government decided in March to route the recruitment of nurses through three government agencies – Norka Roots, the field agency of the Non-Resident Keralites Affairs Department, Overseas Development and Employment Promotion Consultants (ODEPC), under the labor department of the state government, and the Overseas Manpower Corporation run by the Tamil Nadu government.

An Indian delegation comprising of Principal Secretary, Labor, Tom Jose, Norka Secretary Rani George, Chief Executive Officer R S Kannan and ODEPC managing director Dr G L Muralidharan had visited Kuwait in March and held talks with ministry of health officials.

The ambassador said Dr Abdulhadi and Dr Al-Harbi would lead a Kuwaiti delegation to Kerala in the second week of December and hold talks with Norka minister K C Joseph and other officials on follow-up action. There is a consensus that only a nominal amount may be charged from candidates for jobs in the MoH as recruitment fee, an amount that does not exceed KD 100.

The Indian government banned private agents following reports in local and Indian media that agents in Kuwait in collusion with their counterparts in India allegedly take huge sums from candidates ranging from KD 6,000 to KD 12,000 for nursing jobs in Kuwait. In some instances, recruiters would bring large numbers of nurses after taking massive recruitment fees and then let them go after working for only a short period so that they could again recruit a new pool of candidates and take another round of fees.

The Indian embassy in Kuwait piled pressure on the Indian government to put an end to this malpractice, while the Kerala government requested the center to appoint a nodal agency to conduct overseas recruitment of nurses from India. Members of parliament in Kuwait also raised the issue in parliament, setting the stage for bilateral talks between the two governments.
The India government’s decision has however unsettled many private recruiting agents and middlemen who were used to pocketing millions of rupees over the past few years from illegal recruitments. According to recent reports, one private agent, who is the alleged kingpin of the recruitment scandal in Kerala, last month conducted interviews of nurses in Dubai for jobs at Kuwait’s MoH. The agent, circumventing the government ban, reportedly took candidates from India to Dubai for written tests, charging around KD 14,000 from each candidate.

By Sajeev K Peter

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