The Minister of State for External Affairs, Gen. V.K. Singh (retd.), left for Saudi Arabia on Tuesday evening as the government confirmed that 7,700 Indian workers were affected by widespread layoffs in the West Asian country.

“The information about each worker, about his total service, pending salary, desire to exit/continue/transfer,” Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) spokesperson Vikas Swarup said, “is being collected separately. The Embassy teams visited six camps yesterday in Riyadh. A team of the Embassy is separately working in Dammam. This team yesterday met the labour officials to complete procedures related to the protection of legal dues of the workers, once they depart on final exit.”

It’s understood that Gen. Singh will carry out an assessment to find out how many of those retrenched want to return to India and that will determine the future course of action, Mr. Swarup said.

The MEA’s statement came sometime after a meeting between the Minister of State M.J. Akbar and Dr. Saud Bin Mohammed Al Sati, Saudi Arabia’s envoy here.

The Minister, it is learnt, urged the envoy to ensure that the workers are allowed exit visas and are paid their dues before being repatriated. “Glad to receive support and assurances from Saudi government to resolve all outstanding issues, including that of our Indian labourers,” Mr. Akbar tweeted following the meeting.

Meanwhile, parallel talks were held between Mohammed Noor Rahman Sheikh, the Indian Consul General in Jeddah, and officials of the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Labour.

Exit visas

Mr. Akbar had earlier announced that the Indian Embassy in Riyadh had received assurances on “exit visa” for workers. This assurance from Saudi Arabia on dues and exit visas is significant as earlier, on Monday, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said that exit visas were difficult to procure in the absence of “no objection” certificates from the employing companies, several of which have shut down.

The final assessment came two days after External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj declared that over 10,000 Indian citizens were facing hardship in Saudi Arabia. The Minister described the situation in Kuwait as “manageable”.

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