Hyderabad: There were no smiles and no cheer as 80 workers rescued from Kirkuk in Iraq by the Indian government arrived at Hyderabad's Shamshabad airport.
Four of them from Tamil Nadu were put on a Spice Jet flight to Chennai. From there they would go to Trichy.
The rest, 52 from Telangana and 24 from Andhra Pradesh, were relieved to be back in safety. But anxiety about their future made it less of a happy homecoming.
Yellaiah, a worker, broke down on arrival at the Hyderabad airport. Wiping a tear, he repeated what he may have told himself hundreds of times, "If only I could have worked a few months and earned some money, I could have repaid at least half my loans."
"I said I won't return. Why should all of us die? Instead only I will die. If I just return, my family will have no choice but to die. But my wife cried and said I should come home. Now the government has brought us home. All our hope rests on them," he added.
Laxman, another worker, says the thought of going back home and facing debtors is daunting. "The government saved our lives. I hope they can show us a way to survive too. They took so much effort to save our life. If we are allowed to slowly repay our loan, we will also survive. Otherwise all of us in the family have to reach out for pesticide."
Each of these workers have borrowed one and a half lakh rupees and some even more to pay to the agent to get to Iraq.
The workers say life was very difficult in Iraq. They were paid only about half the salary they were promised and in the last three months even that had stopped. They were all scared after two firing incidents happened at the factory where they worked. Since June 17, they had been asking embassy officials for help to return home.
Prasad, also a worker, said it was after pleading with the authorities for days that they had finally managed to come home with the help of the embassy. "But there are at least 50-60 people in my own factory still waiting to come home. The factory authorities have taken their passport and locked the premises."
Similar stories and cries for help were heard in Delhi. 18 of the 54 who reached Delhi came from Rajasthan, while others belonged to states like Bihar and Punjab. All of them have the same story.
According to official sources in the government, by Monday morning, 1200 Indians would have returned from various regions of Iraq and at least a 1000 applications are being processed. A total of about 10 000 Indians reside in Iraq.