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Sushma Swaraj rushes aid to 10,000 Indians starving in Saudi Arabia

| SRIDHAR KUMARASWAMI
Published : Jul 31, 2016, 6:19 am IST
Updated : Jul 31, 2016, 6:19 am IST

In what is turning out to be a huge humanitarian challenge for the Indian government, as many as 10,000 Indian workers may have lost their jobs and be stranded without being paid wages in Saudi Arabia

Union Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj (Photo: PTI)
 Union Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj (Photo: PTI)

In what is turning out to be a huge humanitarian challenge for the Indian government, as many as 10,000 Indian workers may have lost their jobs and be stranded without being paid wages in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait due to their employers shutting down factories as a result of the economic downturn caused by the falling oil prices.

External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj tweeted late on Saturday night that “the number of Indian workers facing a food crisis in Saudi Arabia is over 10,000”, a figure that grew within hours from 800 to 8,000 and, by late evening, to 10,000.

“The number of Indian workers facing food crisis in Saudi Arabia is over 10,000. I appeal to 30 lakh Indians in Saudi Arabia — Please help your fellow brothers and sisters. There is nothing mightier than the collective will of the Indian nation,” Ms Swaraj tweeted late on Saturday.

Minister of state (MoS) for external affairs Gen. (retd.) V.K. Singh has rushed to Saudi Arabia to take stock of the situation and discuss the issue with the Saudi government.

Earlier in the day, Ms Swaraj, reacting to a distress tweet by one Imran Khokhar, that 800 Indians in the Saudi city of Jeddah were hungry for three days after not being paid their wages, immediately ordered the Indian mission in Jeddah that they be fed and looked after. This was done swiftly, and the government also announced that the unemployed Indian workers in Saudi Arabia would be given free rations.

In a series of tweets earlier in the day after the distress complaint, Ms Swaraj said, “We have asked the Indian Embassy in Saudi Arabia to serve you food in Jeddah. My colleague @Gen_VKSingh is reaching Saudi Arabia to sort out all such matters. A large number of Indians have lost their jobs in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. The employers have not paid wages (and have) closed down their factories. As a result our brothers and sisters in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait are facing extreme hardship. While the situation in Kuwait is manageable, matters are much worse in Saudi Arabia. We have asked @IndianEmbRiyadh (the Indian Embassy in the Saudi Capital Riyadh) to provide free rations to the unemployed Indian workers in Saudi Arabia. I assure you that no Indian worker rendered unemployed in Saudi Arabia will go without food. I am monitoring this on an hourly basis.”

Soon after that, the Indian consulate general in Jeddah tweeted, “Happy Indians in queue for food stuffs at Sisten” along with photographs of Indians receiving food items at the Indian mission.

But despite the swift response, the Indian government has a lot of work on its hands. The desperate, unemployed Indian workers there will have no means of returning on their own and it may eventually fall on the government to either ask national carrier Air India or the Indian Air Force to transport them back.

Location: India, Delhi, New Delhi