Little India riot: Give more thought to providing social activities for workers

Little India riot: Give more thought to providing social activities for workers

SINGAPORE - Thousands of foreign workers arrive in Singapore every year filled with excitement and hope as they embark on a new chapter of their lives.

But this optimism is often tempered when they are confronted by regimental lifestyles and tough work conditions here.

Many work 10 to 12 hours, six days a week, earning around $700 a month. But they do not have much to spend as their first year's salary typically goes to paying off about $8,000 in recruitment fees to agents back home.

They have to queue up to use the bathrooms. Often, it is past 10pm when they finally get to unwind.

Some squeeze in a quick phone call to family members or surf the Internet on their phones or laptops using the Wi-Fi in the dorms.

The highlight of the week, therefore, is a Sunday jaunt to Little India where they can relax for free in the open fields. It is also the only day when shuttle buses ferry them, for a small $2 fee, from their dormitories in remote areas like Tuas to the area.

Sunday night's riot in Little India, which saw apparently intoxicated South Asian workers turning on police officers, has now raised the question of whether Singapore is doing enough to care for the social needs of these migrant workers.

Let's be clear: the violence that broke out was needless and unacceptable.

But we need to look beyond that to examine whether these men have turned to drinking as a form of release - and as a result sometimes turning belligerent - partly because there are just too few meaningful activities for them to participate in on Sundays.

Now, only some of the larger dorms have recreational centres where the men can watch movies, play sports and attend classes. Even so, activities are held only sporadically because they require time and effort to plan.









 



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