Indian farmers became livestock breeders in a Halkidiki unit - "Luck smiled on us"

India

Since November 1, the 28-year-old Indian, Shiv Kumar, has been living 5,500 kilometres away from his home near New Delhi. To reach Greece and get a job in Galatista Halkidiki's livestock breeding unit, he was chosen among hundreds of other candidates for the position by the method of photography. At the same time, he had to fight the fear of the unknown and the nostalgia for his wife and their ten-month-old son.

On his way home from working in the fields in his home country, the 28-year-old Indian had first stopped at his 22-year-old compatriot friend Shorab's house to inform him about it.

"Let's go to Greece," he told him, as reported by AMNA and at the same time, he was searching within himself to find the words he would use to tell his wife of the news.

"My friend was overjoyed with the news," recalls the 28-year-old, explaining that the worker who declares to the employment agency that they wish to be transferred has the right to ask to leave for a job so far from his hometown with a friend or relative.

"Luckily, the new boss wanted more of our people, and so Shorab got comfortable," notes Shiv Kumar with a smile.

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He stopped at the door of his house, still trying to find the words to use for his wife, but she caught up with him as the news had spread and congratulated him on his new job in distant Greece.

Many discussions followed, as he says, since many issues had to be settled and, most importantly, the money that would ensure his arrival in Greece was found.

"The plane ticket cost more than 44,000 rupees (over 500 euros), and is not covered by any agency, not even by the new boss," he notes, adding that securing it was a family affair since everyone contributed their share.

"Even my nephew opened his piggy bank and gave me the one euro (about 90 rupees) he had saved," says the 28-year-old Indian, expressing his gratitude for the good fortune in store for him.

The situation experienced by the 22-year-old Shorab was similar. However, as he says, apart from his anxiety about collecting the money to secure the plane ticket, he did not have to be emotionally pressured since, as he states, he is not married.

"I was just happy with the fact that luck smiled on me," he added.

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The two men felt sadness because the job took them away from their home and their families, but at least their new base, Greece, "is a welcoming country, with a mild climate and nice people," something they knew from other compatriots who had worked in Greece.

In a week, the two men had everything ready. The plane ticket in hand, from a small suitcase with a few clothes and basic necessities, and forty euros, kept in the pocket for their first expenses.

Shiv and Shorab travelled more than eleven hours to reach Greece since their flight was connecting from New Delhi and arriving at the "Macedonia" airport in Thessaloniki via Athens.

They were greeted by people from the Agricultural and Livestock Cooperative of Galatista and their new boss.

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The new life in Greece and the...difficulties

A thirty-five square metre house at the entrance to the livestock farm where the two men work and five kilometres from Galatista in Halkidiki is the place where the two spend their time.

Indian seasonal workers

"Apart from the two beds, we have our kitchen, bathroom, heating, TV and free internet," the two men point out, declaring that they are satisfied with their living conditions and the services offered to them.

"We talk daily via video call with our family, and we have everything we need in order not to feel cut off from our life as we knew it in India," they point out.

Of course, a strong motivation for them to make the decision and come to Greece was their salary, as they say, themselves, since "another one is one hundred and sixty-nine rupees per day, which is almost two euros, and the daily wage in Greece is completely different, reaching up to the 25 euros per day".

They state, "This amount does not include their insurance, nor the extras they secure with their overtime."

Regarding the difficulties they face in Greece, a common characteristic of both men is... waking up in the morning, a fact confirmed by the Greek boss in the unit.

"At 6.30 in the morning, we should already be at the animals and taking care of them, but unfortunately, we haven't managed to do it yet," they say and add that "we are an hour late and the boss is arguing lightly and rightfully so."

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It may be "the fault of the time difference between the two countries, and we are still finding it difficult to get used to it," they say with a laugh and express their hope that they will be able to wake up in the morning. After all, they desire to satisfy the people who brought them to Greece for work, who, as they say, "take care of us and make sure we don't miss anything, and the homemade food is delicious."

Another difficulty they face, as well as the Greeks in the unit, is communication. Shiv and Shorab speak very little English and even no Greek, although, as they note, they try and want to learn the basics, as well as the Greek words that the animals on the farm hear as commands, even though they too have started to they become familiar with their own prompts.

"Perhaps they have learned the sound of our voice, who knows?" they characteristically emphasise.

Early in the morning until 12-12.30 in the afternoon and then again from 17.30 until 21.30 at night. They feed, milk and water the animals in the unit while cleaning the facilities and doing all the chores required.

During their time in Greece so far, the Indians went twice to the village of Galatista to get some food and basic necessities, and they said: "we came here for work. We don't need anything else to collect money or send to our families."

Of course, as they quickly point out, "If we have the courage, we are with our other two fellow villagers who work in another livestock unit a few minutes away from ours".

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The key number and the choice...lottery

"In the last three years, the lack of labour in the region has hit red," says the president of the Galatistas Agricultural and Livestock Cooperative, Angelos Tsiartsiaflis, a member of the National Union of Agricultural Cooperatives, and adds that after the massive rejection of applications submitted for the repatriation of land workers from Pakistan, "the solution from India is the only way."

Land workers from Thailand or Vietnam could have been selected, adds Mr Tsiartsiaflis and explains that those from India were preferred "since workers from India have come to our area on other occasions and we saw that they work well and adapt more easily compared to others," he said.

As he says, with the expression of interest in ETHEAS, "we received a key number and using it we entered the association's database, and among the thousands of potential land workers we selected the two aforementioned men, plus two others who work in a second livestock unit in Galatista", he notes.

Their selection, made from their photo, "we don't get any other information," he states and adds "it's a lottery you draw and hope you win."

After the selection, the breeders normally submit their statements to the competent Decentralized Administration, from where the green light is given, while later, following the prescribed steps, the nominal applications are sent to the Greek Embassy in New Delhi, which invites them workers for interview within a frame of 15 days.

It is recalled that based on the Joint Ministerial Decision, for the years 2023 and 2024, positions are no longer determined per Regional Unit but per Region. This fact enables the transfer of temporary workers.

In total, in the region of Galatista, there is a need for more than seventy people as land workers and according to Mr Tsiartsiaflis, those who finally arrive in Greece "live and work here for 12 months for sure, while they have the right if they wish to stay for two and three years."

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