In what has come as a shocking development, over 10,000 Indian workers in Saudi Arabia are facing a “food crisis”, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said on Saturday.
“The number of Indian workers facing food crisis in Saudi Arabia is over Ten Thousand,” Sushma Swaraj said in a tweet.
“It is not 800 as is being reported,” she said.
Appealing to the over three million-strong expatriate Indian population in the Gulf kingdom to “help your brothers and sisters”, she said: “There is nothing mightier than the collective will of Indian nation.”
Earlier on Saturday, she said that a large number of Indians have lost their jobs in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.
“The employers have not paid wages, closed down their factories,” she said, adding that Minister of State for External Affairs V.K. Singh would be going to Saudi Arabia to sort out the issue.
She stated this in response to a tweet from a man who said that over 800 jobless Indians have been starving for three days in Jeddah.
“We have asked the Indian Embassy in Saudi Arabia to serve you food in Jeddah,” Sushma Swaraj said.
“My colleague @Gen_VKSingh is reaching Saudi Arabia to sort out all such matters,” she stated.
She said that while the situation in Kuwait was manageable, matters were much worse in Saudi Arabia.
Minister of State for External Affairs M.J. Akbar would be taking up the issue with the Saudi and Kuwaiti authorities, she said.
“I assure you that no Indian worker rendered unemployed in Saudi Arabia will go without food,” Sushma Swaraj said in another tweet.
“I am monitoring this on hourly basis,” she added.
Following this, the man who had tweeted about the situation in Jeddah, again tweeted pictures of Indians queuing up for food.
Meanwhile, an Indian community member who has been actively involved in the food distribution work told IANS over phone from Jeddah that there are at least seven distribution camps around that Saudi city.
“We have provided food to four camps around Jeddah in the last three days and the remaining three camps will be covered in a day or two,” he said.
He said that in the last three days, Indian consulate officials and community members in Jeddah have provided 15,475 kg of foodstuffs besides cooking ingredients and 1,850 readymade food packets.
Food was distributed among about 3,000 Indian workers on Saturday, it is learnt.
These workers have been laid off by Saudi Oger, a leading Saudi construction company.
The community worker said that there has been a slowdown in the Saudi construction industry because of the fall in global crude oil prices.
“Not only Saudi Arabia, it has been happening in all Gulf countries,” he said.
While Saudi Arabia has over three million expatriate Indians, there are over 800,000 of them in Kuwait. Most of them are blue collars.