NEW DELHI: External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Tuesday gave an ultimatum to Indian workers stranded in Saudi Arabia to choose between re-employment in the Kingdom or returning to India before September 25. The minister said that after the date, the workers would have to bear the costs of their lodging and flight home.
Swaraj asked the workers to file for claims and return to the country without waiting for unpaid salaries and assured that the dues would be paid once the Saudi Arabian government settles the matter with the companies.
“Indian workers who have lost their jobs should file their claims and return by September 25. We will bring them back free of charge… Those who do not return by September 25 will have to make their own arrangements for boarding, lodging and return journey,” Swaraj tweeted on Tuesday. Minister of State for External Affairs Gen V K Singh had visited Saudi Arabia twice to convince the workers to come back after filing claims, rather than waiting indefinitely. “When the Saudi government settles with the companies, the worker’s claims will also be settled,” Swaraj added. According to estimates, 3,712 Indian workers in Riyadh have not received their salaries for months. Besides this, 2,450 labourers of Saudi Oger Company have not been provided with meals since July 25.
The non-oil sector of Saudi Arabia has slipped into ‘recession’ for the first time since the 1980s along with plummeting oil prices. This has come as a challenge to the Saudi government seeking to revamp the country’s rentier economy by making it less dependent on oil exports.
Initial reports had suggested that only 800 Indian workers were starving for the last three days in the Saudi city of Jeddah. However, an assessment of the situation threw up startling figures of over 10,000 workers without any food supplies.