Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Desperate labourers seek death on roads :: Gulf News

Bravo to the Gulf News, and the state that moderates it, for having the guts to run stories such as this.

One thing that low-skilled workers arriving in the workers' paradise which is the UAE discover is that their dormitories are not convenient to shopping or banking, etc. Often it is an 8 lane limited access highway that lies between them and the market. The cost of a taxi can easily exceed a day's wages. Walking safely means going miles out of your way. Many therefore take their chances crossing the Emirates Highway or the Sheik Zayed Road thick with traffic going 120 kph or more.

The expected cost of crossing in this way is not as high as you might think: under Shariah, you or your relatives collect blood money from the driver if you are hit. The Gulf News confirms my suspicions: for some crossing a busy highway is their livelihood. Quote (emphasis and hyperlink added):
Dubai: Labourers desperate to make a fast buck are quite literally playing with their lives: they rush into speeding traffic on busy roads hoping their dependants will inherit the diya (blood money) if they are knocked down.

Following complaints about reckless pedestrians in certain areas in Dubai, Gulf News

The labourers were seen crisscrossing the roads.
Motiram, who was bold enough to reveal his story, said: "We are trying to get knocked down."

Motiram, an illegal Indian who is part of the floating labour population, added, "There is no point living in such a pathetic state. I had come here on a visit visa paying a large sum to an agent in India. I was unsuccessful in finding a good job and have been living hand-to-mouth for the last several months.

"The last time I spoke to my family was some three months ago."

Motiram said he learnt about the blood money rule from his colleagues while working as a daily wage earner.

The choices by Motiram and his co-workers give a whole new meaning to "livelihood" and "occupational safety." Talk about moving along the hedonic wage function, making the risk-return tradeoff!

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Blogger BD said...

I hadn't seen that article. That's pretty shocking. It's hard for me to imagine that any worker regardless of his desperate state would contemplate such an act. I can see it as a passing thought like, "Well, if I get hit at least my family will get money." I don't think any sane laborer would contemplate commiting suicide that way--but like any population I'm sure the laborer community has its share of mental illness, some of it brought on by the pressures they face.

10:12 AM  

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