Women from Andhra Pradesh and Telangana are being “sold like products in a retail shop” in Gulf countries, Andhra Pradesh minister for the welfare of NRIs, Palle Raghunatha Reddy, said. “Women are being sold to the tune of Rs 4 lakh in Saudi Arabia and between Rs 1 lakh and Rs 2 lakh in Bahrain, United Arab Emirates and Kuwait,” the minister wrote in a letter to External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj.

At least 25 women are jailed in Gulf states for trying to flee abusive employers or for overstaying their visas, Reuters reported him as saying in the letter. Reddy urged the Centre to initiate necessary measures to bring the workers back to India by providing them free travel and required visa documents post haste. “Instructions should be issued to Indian embassy officials in Gulf countries to interfere in the matter and provide necessary help in terms of food, clothing and shelter.”

According to a senior official in the Andhra Pradesh government, a group of ministers from the state are heading to the Gulf next month to look into the troubles faced by migrants from the region, Reuters reported. The government is also appointing lawyers to provide legal advice to Indian prisoners jailed in those countries, the official said.

There are an estimated six million Indian migrants in Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, UAE and Oman. The figure includes women who leave their villages to seek jobs abroad that pay up to three times more than in India. In the process, they are often duped by recruitment agents.