In an unprecedented crisis, around 10,000 Indian workers, most of whom worked with Saudi construction companies, are stranded in Saudi Arabia without food and money, with the Indian government working overtime to alleviate their suffering. Minister of State for External Affairs Gen (retd) V.K. Singh is set to leave for Jeddah tonight (August 2) to make an on-the-spot assessment of the situation.
His on-ground assessment will determine the future course of action, said Vikas Swarup, the spokesperson of India’s external affairs ministry on August 2.
Overall, there are 7700 affected Indian workers in 20 camps, the spokesperson confirmed.
The Indian embassy teams are in touch with Indian workers in Riyadh and Damman. The information about each worker, about his total service, pending salary, desire to exit/continue/transfer is being collected separately, said the spokesperson. These Indian workers, mostly low-income migrants, worked with Saudi companies, including Saudi Oger, SAAD Group, Shifa Sanaya, and Taiya Contracting.
The pitiable plight of hungry and penniless Indian workers in Saudi Arabia has come as a shock to the Modi government, which has made diaspora outreach and welfare a key plank of its foreign policy. The food crisis afflicting Indian workers in Saudi Arabia has erupted barely four months after Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Saudi Arabia and was assured by the top Saudi leadership about the welfare of the Indian community, including migrant workers, in the Arab world’s largest economy. Mr Modi interacted with the Indian workers as well as the well-heeled Indian community in two separate outreach events in Riyadh. Saudi Arabia is home to around 3 million Indians, the largest expatriate population in the Gulf powerhouse.
The government is, however, proactively handling the crisis. The government is making all efforts to bring back the 10,000 Indian workers rendered jobless in Saudi Arabia and is also providing them food in camps, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said in the Lok Sabha (upper house of Indian parliament) on August 1.
“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,” said Sushma Swaraj.
“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 authorize us to bring them from Saudi Arabia,” she added.
“Not even a single worker will stay hungry. Everyone will get food this is my assurance to the country through the Parliament,” said Sushma Swaraj.
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