Union Minister VK Singh arrived in Jeddah on Wednesday to assist 10,000 Indians who were facing a food crisis after they were laid off by their employers in Saudi Arabia. After holding extensive talks with Saudi Labour Minister Mufrej Al Haqbani, VK Singh said:
We discussed all the issues related to Indian workers. It was brought out that the problem is because of one company which has not provided the humanitarian facilities as per the law of the land. The government of Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has taken serious note of this lapse and have taken immediate action to ensure that all camps where Indian workers were staying are provided facilities like medical, food, hygiene and sanitation.
On Monday, Indian Consul General Noor Rahman Sheikh had said that the overwhelming majority of workers wish to stay in the kingdom by switching to other employers, while others want to return home only after retrieving their pending wages and other benefits from their employers.
Only a handful were willing to return home without retrieving their pending dues, he said, when asked.
Sheikh added that the validity of passports of some of the Indian workers has expired and the Indian consulate was renewing those documents.
The validity of the exit visa and Iqama (residency visa) of some of these workers has also lapsed and the Indian mission was working to sort out these issues with local authorities, Sheikh said.
He revealed that a Saudi employer has come forward to absorb 1,000 workers and some other Saudi employers were also contacting the Indian mission.
As per reports, the Labour Minister issued orders to allow the Indian workers to immediately transfer their sponsorship (kafala) and renew their residencies.
Under the kafala system, which is applicable to foreign workers, employees are not allowed to move to a new job without approval of their bosses.
The Indian mission in Jeddah has been pursuing the grievances of the workers by addressing the management of one of the top companies, along with the government, he said.
Though salaries were not being paid for the last few months to its employees by a leading construction company, it was operating its food mess for workers till last week. The problem surfaced after it stopped the food supplies.Noor Rahman Sheikh, Indian Consul General
Singh said Saudi government is also providing free passage to all those who want to go back to India and that they will also honour the claims filed by workers against the companies which have defaulted their payments.
Satisfied over Haqbani’s response, Singh said he was thankful to the Saudi government for “very positive action and magnanimous attitude”.
(With PTI and IANS inputs)