The government is making all efforts to bring back 10,000 Indian workers rendered jobless in the Gulf and Minister of State for External Affairs V.K. Singh is visiting Saudi Arabia on Tuesday to start the process, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj told the Lok Sabha.
Speaking in the Lok Sabha, Sushma Swaraj said that she is personally monitoring the situation on hourly basis and that food is being provided to the Indians at five camps set up by the Indian mission there.
The economic slowdown in the Gulf Cooperation Council region following the fall in global crude oil prices has affected over 10,000 Indians, mostly working in the construction sector with factories shut down and workers laid off.
“The situation is a fluid and dynamic one,” sources here said on Monday.
“A total of approximately 10,000 Indian workers have been affected by the economic slowdown in the Gulf. The impact, however, varies from company to company,” they said.
The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region comprises Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
According to sources, 3,172 Indian workers in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, have not been paid their salaries for several months but were getting regular rations.
Indian workers, numbering 2,450, belonging to Saudi Oger, a major Saudi construction company based in Jeddah, 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 here said.
Sushma Swaraj instructed the Indian embassy in Riyadh and the consulate in Jeddah to urgently provide food assistance to them.
“Accordingly, our consulate in Jeddah, through the assistance of the Indian community has been providing rations for the 2,450 Indian workers which should be sufficient for the next eight to 10 days,” the sources said.
The consulate, along with Indian community members, provided 15,475 kg of foodstuff besides cooking ingredients and 1,850 readymade food packets to these workers on Saturday.
The sources here said Minister of State for External Affairs M.J. Akbar was liaising with the Saudi authorities to ensure that the claims of all the Indian workers with unpaid dues were lodged and processed in accordance with law.
Akbar, it is learnt, has also sought Saudi assistance in arranging exit visas for all Indian workers who wish to be repatriated.
“V.K. Singh would leave for Saudi Arabia to visit the workers’ camps and make an on-the-spot assessment of the ground situation,” the sources said.
“Logistics and modalities of a possible repatriation of those workers who want to return will be worked out following V.K. Singh’s visit,” they said.
Sushma said in the Lok Sabha: “I assure you that no Indian worker rendered unemployed in Saudi Arabia will go without food. I am monitoring the situation on hourly basis. I am satisfied to say this in the Parliament that ration (food packets) has been distributed to all the five camps for the next 10 days.”
“But this is not a permanent solution to the problem. The companies have shut their factories and left. We can’t leave our workers there. I contacted their foreign office and labour office. We have asked the foreign office to authorise us to bring them from Saudi Arabia,” she added.
Elaborating on the situation, Sushma said: “But their payments are also due. So, I have asked the labour office that each one of them will sign a contract. Before the company pays the government’s (Saudi Arabia) dues, they should first pay these workers.”
She said all the formalities would be completed once V.K. Singh reached Riyadh.