Will bring workers stranded in Saudi, food arranged for now: Sushma

New Delhi: India will ensure that none of the Indian workers abroad go hungry because they do not have work, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said on Monday, adding that the government will bring back citizens stranded in Saudi Arabia after the companies they were working for shut down.

The minister was responding to concerns raised by members in the Rajya Sabha.

On Saturday, the minister had said over 10,000 Indians in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait were facing a “food crisis” because of economic hardships. “Large number of Indians have lost their jobs in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. The employers have not paid wages (and) closed down their factories,” she had tweeted.

On Monday, she informed members of the upper house that food has been distributed to the workers, and Minister of State for External Affairs V.K. Singh was going to Saudi Arabia to get the workers back.

“Government has taken this issue very seriously. When I got to know workers are without food and water, I contacted Indian embassy at Riyadh and (consulate at) Jeddah and told them to distribute free raiton. I also urged the local Indian community to assist them,” she said.

“I am personally monitoring it and need a report every hour,” she said.

“I am satisfied today that at quarter to three, I got a message that food has been distributed in all five camps,” the minister said.

Sushma Swaraj said the government will bring the workers back to India.

“Ration for 7-10 days has been given. But this is not a permanent solution. There companies have been shut. We cannot leave them there… we have to get them back,” she said.

“We have contacted foreign and labour offices. The rule is that embassies cannot give emergency exit visa if employer does not give a no objection certificate. We told them the employer is not there so how can we get no objection certificate,” the minister said.

She also said that the government will ensure the labourers get their pending payments.

“I am sending General V.K. Singh there. He will talk to (Saudi) foreign office and labour office and will get them home.”

The minister added that no Indian labourer abroad should go hungry and the Indian government will ensure this.

“Any Indian labourer outside the country, if he does not have work, government takes the responsibility that he will not sleep hungry,” Sushma Swaraj added.

According to reports, 10,000 Indian workers were laid off in Saudi Arabia after growth slowed in the country, triggered by the negative effects of falling oil prices.

The workers were left without any money to buy food or travel back to India