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A Plea For Help: To The Saudi Minister - Alleviate The Suffering Of Over 800 Stranded Foreigners

12 August 2016

By Tariq A. Al-Maeena

A plea for help in the form of a tweet sent by a desperate Indian guest worker in the Kingdom to the Indian external affairs minister set in motion a series of events that have generated wide publicity across many borders.

The man appealed for the minister's intervention to alleviate the suffering of over 800 of his countrymen who had been left high and dry with nothing to sustain them after the companies that had hired them refused to compensate them for their services for the past seven months. He stated that they had not eaten for three days in Jeddah, and asked for the minister's personal intervention.

In the passing days, it became evident that the initial number did not reflect the true magnitude of the problem as some 10,000 Indians as claimed by the Indian minister were languishing under similar conditions. The dire situation has been intensified by the loss of major contracts by several large companies heavily involved in developing the Kingdom's infrastructure. Once the companies began internal cutbacks, the first sacrifices were the salaries of lower level employees. The situation was worsened when some 800,000 workers in Kuwait fell victim to similar tactics.

The minister reacted by ordering the Indian Consulate in Jeddah to keep abreast of the situation and immediately rectify the dire conditions facing the stranded Indian nationals. She tweeted: ''Large number of Indians have lost their jobs in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. The employers have not paid wages, closed down their factories. As a result our brothers and sisters in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait are facing extreme hardship. The number of Indian workers facing food crisis in Saudi Arabia is over ten thousand. I assure you that no Indian worker rendered unemployed in Saudi Arabia will go without food. I am monitoring this on hourly basis.''

Urging the Indian community to help these workers, the minister tweeted an extraordinary appeal to all Indians living in the Kingdom. ''I appeal to 3 million Indians in Saudi Arabia. Please help your fellow brothers and sisters,'' she tweeted.

The Indian Consulate immediately began to look for ways to provide relief to all the stranded workers. It is commendable that in spite of the odds and with strong support from the Indian community, the Consulate's timely intervention ensured that the workers' immediate needs of being fed were met successfully. Indian Consul General Mohammed Noor Rahman Sheikh stated: ''For now the food requirement for one week has been taken care of. However, the process of feeding them will continue until a solution is found.'' According to reports, some 16,000 kg of food was distributed to Indians who were on the verge of starvation.

Some major Saudi companies decided to pitch in to help out. The Indian Consul General announced in Jeddah that a Saudi company, after learning of the plight of the workers, had offered to accept 1,000 workers on their payroll with immediate effect. Two other Saudi employers also expressed interest in employing some of these jobless workers, according to the CG who added that it was evident that ''there is no dearth of Saudi philanthropists''. The Saudi government will investigate complaints against the guilty parties for not paying wages and will take appropriate action once the findings are in. Meanwhile, the Indian government is formulating a plan to evacuate a large number of jobless Indians from the Gulf region and India's Minister of State for External Affairs VK Singh has been tasked to travel to Saudi Arabia to put in place an evacuation process which is due to begin soon.

Until the time when they are indeed evacuated, we should collectively ensure that these workers will no longer suffer and I ask all of our countrymen and other nationals to pitch in and help out our Indian brothers in their time of need. They were victims and if we want to right a wrong, the least we can do is help the Indian diplomatic missions in the country provide sustenance to these unfortunate workers. Any form of assistance would be greatly appreciated.

We are all members of the human race and it is the Islamic way of doing the right thing.

The author can be reached at talmaeena@aol.com. Follow him on Twitter @talmaeen


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