India is trying to get around 4,000 nationals, more than half of them nurses, out of Yemen, where Shi'ite Houthi fighters have swept into the southern port city of Aden despite an air campaign led by Saudi Arabia to check their advance.

The medics' predicament highlights the dilemma facing Indian health workers, many from poor families who borrow heavily to educate their children and then send them abroad to earn the money back.
               
The debts are sometimes owed to middlemen who charge exorbitant fees to place Indians in jobs abroad, and the government has moved to crack down on the practice by banning foreign recruitment by private companies nationwide.

"For now I'm staying," Indian male nurse Meljo Joy said from the Al-Naqib Hospital in Aden.                

The native of the southern state of Kerala, where most of the Indian nurses in Yemen are from, chose not to board an Indian naval vessel that evacuated 349 people on Tuesday from the city, preferring to take a chance despite the fighting.

"In New Delhi, a famous hospital will give a maximum of USD 400 (a month) as salary," Joy, 27, said. "But accommodation and food is very expensive. It (Yemen) is good for me, because I get to save and keep my salary in the bank," she said.
               
Lacking experience to work in a more prestigious location, Joy paid USD 2,000 to a recruitment agent to land a job in Yemen. He earns USD 600 a month, gets free accommodation and sends money to his family to pay off a tuition loan.
               
As well as those taken from Aden, India has airlifted 80 people from the capital Sanaa, but it has been unable to send in more flights because Riyadh, which has air supremacy over its southern neighbour, has not opened a safe air corridor.
             
Financial Risk

More than 100 nursing institutes in Kerala train thousands of graduates every year, with more studying outside the state, depressing local wages and creating a strong incentive to seek better-paid work abroad.

Monthly wages at hospitals in Kerala start from 5,000 rupees, rising with experience and seniority to 25,000 rupees.
               
Fierce competition for jobs abroad, meanwhile, puts nurses at the mercy of recruiters who sometimes demand large up-front fees or renege on promises of more pay and safe contracts.
               
National Ban

As part of broader efforts by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to improve the pay and conditions of Indian migrant workers, New Delhi has imposed a nationwide ban on foreign recruitment of nurses by private companies.

From May, only two state recruitment agencies will be allowed to operate in Kerala, charging modest fees and working through legitimate diplomatic channels to curb bribe-taking in destination countries.

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