Monday, June 21, 2021

Telangana shepherd’s ordeal in Saudi deserts

Riyadh: Exhausted and frightened Togeti Anantagiri, 48, who came to Saudi Arabia in search of a better life, now finds life unbearable, being exploited by his employer. Hailing from the remote village of Challapur in Siddipet district, he came to the oil-rich kingdom to take the job of a driver some two years ago but ended up as a shepherd due to the machinations of fraudulent agents.

He braved wild desert animals, poisonous snakes, scorpions, unbearable heat, sandstorms and exhaustion in remote deserts on the border of Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates. “I was the lone human being in a vast desert,” said Anantagiri. Narrating his ordeal, he said that he hasn’t seen any other human being except his employer who used to visit the pen for counting his sheep and goats.

He said that he had to look after 370 sheep, 180 goats and some hundreds of chickens from midday to midnight. “Safe drinking water was a distant dream for me and I was not able to even have a drop of safe water for seven months that I worked in the desert,” he added. “I used to drink the water which was unfit for human consumption and used for animal feed, as a result of which I developed a kidney problem,” Anantagiri said.

Tough life

“When I returned to the pens it would be around 2:00 am. I used to clean up the place, then kill snakes to protect animals from being attacked, after which I would retire to my makeshift room, which was full of snakes, scorpions. Only after killing them and then throwing them away I would sleep at dawn for a few hours till sunrise,” he said.

Anantagiri said, “One night, after a scorpion bit me, I cried for help and called my employer more than 100 times as the venom was spreading in my leg. I tied a cloth and started running in the desert. After reaching the highway in the morning, I fainted and fell after which a Pakistani truck driver spotted me and rushed me to a hospital, where I was treated.”

Later, he fled his employer and was doing odd jobs, but for the last couple of months he has been without a job due to the slowdown in the construction sector. Without any income Anantagiri is now struggling for food.

He was hopeful of returning home during amnesty but failed as his former employer had slapped a case against him. He along with scores of other TS workers have been running from pillar to post for help, including appeals through social media to Union External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj.

Distraught and broken-hearted, Anantagiri now waits only for the day when he would be repatriated home.

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