Minister of state for external affairs VK Singh will leave for Saudi Arabia on Tuesday night to assess difficulties of thousands of Indians who lost their jobs, and finalise modalities of bringing back those wanting to return.
Ahead of Singh’s visit, his ministerial colleague MJ Akbar, who looks after issues relating to Gulf region, met Saudi ambassador Saud bin Mohammed Al Sati and discussed the issue of the jobless Indians.
“Had fruitful discussions with Saudi Ambassador to India Dr Saud bin Mohammed Al Sati on all bilateral issues. Glad to receive support and assurances from Saudi government to resolve all outstanding issues, including that of our Indian labourers,” Akbar said in a series of tweets.
Foreign affairs ministry officials said Singh will arrive in Jeddah early on Wednesday morning and is scheduled to return on the evening of Friday.
Thousands of Indians in Saudi Arabia were facing severe food crisis due to financial hardships after they lost their jobs due to slowdown of the economy in the Gulf.
The Indian mission has provided food to those struggling to even buy food.
Making a statement in the Parliament on Monday, Union external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj said the workers will be brought back home, asserting that not one of them will go hungry.
“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” as the situation varied from company to company.
Around 3,172 Indian workers in Riyadh have not been paid their salary dues for several months but are getting regular rations, sources said.
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.
The Centre has requested Saudi authorities to give the unemployed Indian workers 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.