Seventy-eight Indians, working for a private firm in Saudi Arabia, have been left stranded without food and water after their employer reneged on paying their salaries for about six months, apart from failing to issue them identity and medical aid cards.
The Indians- mostly from the states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar- have been left without food and water at their shelter in Tabuk, a town about 1,000-km from Jeddah and located close to the Jordan border, according to one of the victims who spoke to IANS over the phone.
The workers had been hired about two years ago by the Tabuk-based Mutafail Maintenance and Trading Company through an Indian recruiter and had gone to work at the facilities of the Saudi firm in 2010.
"However, sometime in the beginning of 2012, the firm stopped paying our salaries and for the last six months we have been without food and water. The shelter we stay in also does not have enough facilities for a decent living," Pankaj Mishra, one of the 78 Indian workers, told IANS from Tabuk over phone.
"We have not been issued the mandatory medical card and the Akana (identity) card, which allows us free movement around the town and the country. Soon after we arrived, our passports were taken away from us and is now in the custody of our employer, which is the norm for any overseas employee," Mishra said.
He also lamented that they wanted to return home, but were unable to do so without their passports.
The workers had got in touch with the Indian consulate in Jeddah regarding their problems six months ago.
The Indian consulate in Jeddah said it was seized of the matter relating to the Indian workers in Tabuk and had taken up the problems of these expatriates immediately after being informed of their plight.
An official, who did not wish to be named, noted that the consulate was in touch with the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs in New Delhi over the 78 Indian workers' problems and was informing the ministry back here on a regular basis.
"At the moment, we have a senior official from the Jeddah consulate present in Tabuk talking to the local labour authorities and the employer to settle the issues," the official told IANS over phone from Jeddah.
"Due to our negotiations, we have been able to convince the Saudi firm to pay up salaries of four months to all the Indian workers," he said.
Noting that the plight of the 78 Indian workers is not "an isolated case", the official said that it was the sort of issue that all expatriates, be it from Pakistan, Bangladesh, or any other country, faced in Saudi Arabia, all due to the labour laws and rules, which were quite stringent.
The issue of the 78 Indian workers is now being heard in a labour court in Tabuk and the Indian consulate from Jeddah is providing them legal assistance.