Minister for Labour, Employment and Social Security, Gauri Shankar Chaudhary, has condemned the action taken against the SOS Manpower Service for conducting illegal interviews to send workers to the Qatar Police Service and has dismissed charges filed against the manpower company on Friday while it was being investigated by the Department of Foreign Employment.

A letter written by the Minister to dismiss the action reached the Department on Monday.

An investigation team deployed by the Department had conducted a surprise raid at SOS on November 23 while the manpower company was conducting an illegal interview of Qatar job aspirants. The Department had suspended SOS, DD Human Resources and Hope International for six months until the investigation was completed on the same charge.

Minister Chaudhary, meanwhile, has only dismissed charges filed against SOS. He has written in his decision that the action taken by the Department against the manpower company had no legal grounds and lacked due legal process.

“As mentioned in the search and seizure document prepared by the emergency monitoring team deployed by the Department of Foreign Employment on November 23, no evidence has been found that SOS has acted contrary to sections 15 and 16 of the Foreign Employment Act,” Chaudhary’s decision letter reads, adding, “Pursuant to Sub-Article 7 of Article 61, the decision to suspend the entire operation of the organization for the current six months was against the natural judicial principle and did not seem to be lawful.”

SOS is among the manpower companies in Nepal that send the largest number of labour workers to Qatar. SOS chairman, Hem Bahadur Gurung, also runs the Qatar Visa Center — a visa and bio-metric health center.

After the then Labour Minister Gokarna Bista had refused to allow the opening of the Qatar Visa Center in Nepal, Gurung had appeased Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli to direct the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to run the Center.

Following which, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Pradeep Kumar Gyawali, gave a go-ahead to the establishment of the Center.

Gurung was also appointed as a member of the Foreign Employment Board by the then Labour Minister Rameshwar Ray Yadav, but he later resigned after the decision was disputed.

Meanwhile, the Department of Foreign Employment has expressed dissatisfaction over Minister Chaudhary’s decision.

“We did not imagine that the minister would interfere in the Department’s performance in such a manner. It was not appropriate to go straight to the level of not taking action against the manpower company even though there was ample basis for legal charges and the case was still under investigation,” said an official of the Department.

Three manpower companies, including SOS, had conducted illegal interviews with the aspirants for Qatar Police Service without verifying the demand letter at the Nepali Embassy. Top officials from Qatar’s Interior Ministry also arrived at the company to conduct interviews.

The youths selected through the illegal interviews conducted by the manpower companies which were selected by Qatar have started going to the Arab country through the Indian route after they failed to secure a work permit from Nepal government.

Qatar had interviewed 300 people in the second batch. In the first lot, 179 Nepali labourers were taken to Qatar after following the due legal process last February.

Manpower companies and agents are said to have illegally collected between Rs 120,000 and Rs 150,000 from the job aspirants of the Qatar Police Service. Those who went to the first lot had also paid between Rs 800,000 lakh and Rs 120,000.

The contract period for the job is five years with chances of renewal. The salary is said to be 3,000 riyals (NRP 96,064.67) during the training and 6,000 riyals (NPR 192,129.34) after the training. With a lucrative salary, job aspirants somehow manage to pay the amount demanded by manpower agents.

Qatar has plans to take up to 12,000 Nepali workers for security guard jobs targeting the 2020 Football World Cup.