Narendra Modi UAE
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Prime Minister Narendra Modi, as part of his two-day visit to the UAE on 16 and 17 August, will be visiting Abu Dhabi's ICAD Residential City, a labour camp home to about one lakh migrant labourers from India and other countries of the sub-continent.

Expectedly, there is excitement among the labourers who are eager to see an Indian prime minister visit them. 

The visit to the labour camp will be Modi's second engagement on Sunday in Abu Dhabi, after a visit to the city's Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, the largest mosque in the UAE.

A report says that a select group of about 300 Indian migrant workers will interact with Modi in a small, 20X40-metre sports hall in the camp that spans about 14 sq km.  

The camp, also known as ICAD Workers' Village, was built three years ago for workers living in and around Abu Dhabi.

Hopes are riding high among these workers, who dsitinguish themselves from other Indian expats, so to speak, from Modi's visit.

"It will be good to see an Indian Prime Minister meet real NRIs of the Gulf, with their real problems," says Arif, the manager of a grocery store at the labour camp.

According to the Embassy of India in the UAE, there are about 2.6 million Indians in the country that comprises seven Emirates and account for about 30% of the population.  

Of these 2.6 million Indian diaspora, only 15-20% are professionals, while the rest are either blue collar workers, or labourers. 

The embassy acknowledges that till recently, these workers had to face serious problems arising out of their (UAE) employers failing to fulfill their contractual obligations, though it claims that things have improved over the past five years.

The UAE has often seen protests erupting over unfair treatment of workers. In 2007, about 40,000 workers of Arabtec, a Dubai-based construction company, resorted to strike, disrupting work at about 26 labour camps of the company. 

The UAE government too claims that the situation has improved over the years, but this claim is contested by Human Rights Watch.

In its report released in February this year, the human rights organisation says complaints persist about passports of migrants being withheld so that they don't switch jobs, of mass firing and of workers being deported for threatening to protest or strike work, reports The Sydney Morning Herald reports.

In this context, what these migrants would expect from Modi is much more than a speech that he delivered while addressing the Indian disapora in the US at the Madison Square Garden last September and at the Allphones Arena in SydneyAustralia, where he spoke of Indian pride, easy travel for NRIs and PIOs and Swachch Bharat Abhiyan.

Known for his outreach to the Indian diaspora on most of his overseas visits, this one by Modi will have to be different, according to Dr S Irudaya Rajan, Chair Professor at the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs' Research Unit on International Migration at the Centre for Development Studies, Thiruvananthapuram.

"They would want to listen to India's charismatic and popular Prime Minister, and would want his visit to boost bilateral relations. But more than that, they would would hope that his visit has a meaningful impact on their lives," he says.

Will the plight of the workers improve as a result of Modi's visit to their labour camp? 

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