The Indian government is in touch with the Saudi authorities and together they are seeking an amicable solution to ease the suffering of hundreds of Indian expatriates. The expatriates are jobless because their employers are some of the Kingdom’s ailing private construction firms.
From the Saudi point of view, the matter is a simple labor problem between a private firm and its employees. The government is in no way involved in any of the company’s decisions, whether right or wrong. The Saudi government has said that the workers have the option of approaching the courts to seek satisfaction. “All systems are in place and there is no reason why this issue cannot be resolved through normal channels,” said a source.
According to some estimates, nearly 10,000 Indians are among those who have been laid off by Saudi Oger and the Saudi Binladin Group. Many of them are accommodated at five different camps in and around Jeddah.
There are 3 million Indians in the Kingdom who are gainfully employed. Irresponsible reporting in the Indian media, sourced from unverified social media accounts, has given the erroneous impression that many Indians are starving and dying in Saudi Arabia.
The unemployed Indians have approached Indian diplomats and have taken to social media to complain of not being paid for the last seven months. Their financial situation was said to be so dire that they were unable to buy food.
The Indian Consulate in Jeddah, led by Consul General Noor Rahman Sheikh, and Indian community representatives, have sprung into action and provided food to the unemployed Indians.
According to Indian diplomatic sources, food is no longer the issue. The real issue now is how to resolve their financial situation.
Most of the unpaid Indians want to go home; understandably, however, they want their financial dues to be paid before they leave the Kingdom. The consulate is seeking the opinions of all the stranded Indians.
There are three choices available to the Indians. One is to go home and give the consulate the power of attorney to collect their dues. The second is to remain in the Kingdom until they have received what is due them. The third possibility is to seek a transfer to another company in the Kingdom.
“We are exploring all possibilities,” said an Indian diplomat in Jeddah. “The Saudi government has extended full help to us.”
According to the diplomat, the stranded Indians could be sent home on what he termed “ferry flights.” These are Haj flights that bring pilgrims for the annual pilgrimage and then return home empty.
If all the issues are sorted out and if there is permission from the Saudi government, the stranded Indians might be repatriated to India at no cost via ferry flights which would return empty to India.
According to Saudi government sources, Saudi Oger has been paid large sums of money for projects that it carried out for the government but since the company has considerable debts outside the Kingdom, as soon as the money is deposited in banks for the payment of workers, international banks instantly withdraw the money, leaving the salary problems of employees unresolved.