The issue was raised in both Houses of Parliament. Responding to queries from members in both the Houses, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj assured that all Indian workers stranded in Saudi Arabia would be brought back safely. Her deputy in the Ministry Gen VK Singh would leave for that country tomorrow to oversee evacuation process, she said.
Swaraj made identical statements in both Houses saying the Indian Embassy was running five camps to feed stranded Indians and that she had received hourly inputs till early today.
“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,” the minister said, adding that the government was in touch with foreign and labour offices in Saudi Arabia to ensure their early evacuation.
Noting that the law in that country does not permit an emergency exit visa without a no-objection certificate from the employers, who, she said, have shut their factories and left the country, leaving these employees stranded.
“We have requested the Saudi government to give them exit visas as employers had left the country and also urged it to first clear the dues of workers, who have not been paid for months, whenever they settle the accounts with the companies concerned,” she said.
Sources in the government add that 3, 172 Indian workers in Riyadh have not been paid their salaries for several months, but are getting regular rations. In all, 2, 450 Indian workers belonging to the Saudi Oger Company are housed at five camps in Jeddah, Mecca and Taif. Since July 25, the company had stopped providing meals to the workers besides defaulting on their salaries. Accordingly, the Indian consulate in Jeddah, through the assistance of the Indian community has been providing rations for 2,450 workers that should be sufficient for the next 8-10 days.
Sources said MOS MJ Akbar was liaising with the Saudi authorities to ensure that claims of all the Indian workers with unpaid dues were lodged and processed in accordance with law. Akbar has also sought Saudi assistance in arranging exit visas for all Indian workers who wish to be repatriated.
Sources said VK Singh, who would reach Jeddah tomorrow, would take care of the logistics and modalities of a possible repatriation of the workers who wanted to return to India.