New Delhi: Indian workers in a large Saudi Arabian construction company in Jeddah were not paid their salaries for the last seven months leading to a starvation-like crisis.
After the Indian consulate in Jeddah distributed food among 2,450 such workers on Saturday, it transpired that the Saudi Oger company has not been paying salaries to these workers for many months.
According to an Indian community worker involved in the food distribution work, of the 50,000 employees of the company, 4,000 are Indians.
He said construction industry in Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern countries has slowed down because of fall in global crude oil prices.
"For the last seven months these Indian workers (of Saudi Oger) were not getting their salaries," Indian Consul General in Jeddah Mohammed Noor Rahman Sheikh told IANS over phone early Sunday.
"We provided food to 2,450 Indian workers in five camps on Saturday," he said.
"We have provided 15,475 kg of foodstuff besides cooking ingredients and 1,850 readymade food packets to these workers."
Sheikh said that not only has Saudi Oger not been paying the salaries for the last seven months, it has also stopped providing food to these workers.
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," 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 Saudi Arabia to "help your brothers and sisters," Swaraj 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," Swaraj said.
"My colleague @Gen_VKSingh is reaching Saudi Arabia to sort out all such matters," she stated.
Sushma Swaraj 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," 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.
While Saudi Arabia has over three million expatriate Indians, there are over 800,000 of them in Kuwait. Most of them are blue collar workers.