New Delhi has taken up the case of an Indian driver who was detained twice in Saudi Arabia this month after he made an emotional appeal for help citing ill-treatment by his employer, officials said on Tuesday.
A video of Abdul Sattar Makandar’s tearful appeal for help went viral after it was posted online by a social worker, sparking outrage on social media amid calls for government intervention.
Sattar’s plight rekindled memories of an Indian maid who was allegedly tortured and one of her hands cut off by her Saudi employer last year. The maid was repatriated to India but not before the issue almost sparked a diplomatic row between the two countries.
Saudi Arabia has the largest number of Indian passport holders outside India, most of them are employed as blue collar workers. The oil-rich country is often criticised for human rights violations and difficult working conditions for migrant workers, a charge its government denies.
External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj asked Indian officials to follow up on the issue.
“Please let us handle the matter at a diplomatic level,” the minister said in a tweet responding to queries from social media users.
A ministry official said the ministry has “taken due note of the matter, but the issue needs deft handling”.
A father of four, Sattar, 35, hails from Karnataka and migrated to Saudi Arabia about two years ago.
Kundan Srivastava, the Delhi-based human rights activist who posted Sattar’s video online said the driver was arrested by Saudi authorities on charges of spreading misinformation, a crime in the kingdom. The video was subsequently removed.
A tearful Sattar alleged that his “employer does not give me proper salary or money for buying food”.
“I put in my papers for a leave five months back but they won’t let me go,” Sattar said.
According to Saudi law, an employee cannot leave the country until the employer approves the leave.
The company denied the charges by posting an image of Sattar thanking the company for helping him get an engineering qualification.