A large number of Indian workers in Saudi Arabia who have lost their jobs and cannot even buy food due to severe financial hardship will be brought back home, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said, asserting that not one of them will go hungry.
In a statement in Parliament amid concerns by members in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, Swaraj said her deputy V K Singh is leaving for Saudi Arabia to oversee the evacuation process. She said the Indian embassy in the Gulf nation was running five camps to feed the affected people.
“Not one worker of ours will go hungry. This is my assurance to the country through Parliament… We will bring all of them back to India,” Swaraj said.
Issues like logistics and modalities of a possible repatriation of the workers who want to return to India will be worked out during Singh’s visit.
Official sources said approximately 10,000 Indian workers have been affected by the economic slowdown in the Gulf and the situation was “fluid and dynamic”. They said the situation varied from company to company.
Sources said 3,172 Indian workers in Riyadh have not been paid their salary dues for several months but are getting regular rations.
Separately, 2,450 Indian workers belonging to the Saudi Oger Company are housed in five camps in Jeddah, Mecca and Taif. Since July 25, the company had stopped providing meals to the workers besides defaulting on their salaries, the sources said.
The Indian Consulate in Jeddah, with the assistance of the diaspora, has provided rations to the workers which should be sufficient for the next 8–10 days, they said.
The government, Swaraj said, was in touch with the foreign and labour offices in Saudi Arabia to ensure early evacuation of affected Indians.
Swaraj noted that the law there does not permit an emergency exit visa without no objection certificate from the employers who, she said, have shut their factories and left the country, leaving these employees stranded.
The government has requested the Saudi authorities to give them exit visas without NoC from employers and also urged it to clear the dues of workers who have not been paid for months, whenever they settle the accounts with the companies concerned.
Swaraj said she recieved the last report at 2.45 AM and informed the Lok Sabha that ration for 10 days had been distributed to people in all the five camps. “I am personally monitoring the situation.”
MoS in the External Affairs Ministry M J Akbar is liaising with the Saudi authorities to ensure that the claims of all Indian workers with unpaid dues are lodged and processed in accordance with law.
He has also sought Saudi assistance in arranging exit visa for all Indian workers who wish to be repatriated, said the sources.
“VK Singh would be proceeding imminently to Saudi Arabia to visit the worker camps and make an on the spot assessment of the ground situation.
Logistics and modalities of a possible repatriation of those workers who want to return will be worked out following MoS’ visit,” the sources said. Swaraj has been monitoring the situation on an hourly basis.