Riyadh: Saudi Arabia has agreed to assist thousands of laid-off Indian workers stranded in the kingdom without money or food, an Indian minister said on Wednesday.
Construction firms have been squeezed financially and have laid off tens of thousands of south Asian and other foreign workers.
More than 6,200 of the stranded Indian workers were employed by a construction firm, according to Indian officials.
India's Minister of State for Foreign Affairs VK Singh, visiting Riyadh on Wednesday to meet Saudi Labour Minister Mufrej Al Haqbani, said the Saudi government had provided assurances that it would resolve the crisis and ensure workers' financial claims were pursued, even if the workers returned home.
"Things are not as bad as they have been shown and projected," the minister said in joint remarks with Haqbani after their meeting.
"Things are very fine. We are in constant touch with all the officials and the various departments of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia."
Haqbani said Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia had directed officials to take all measures to resolve the problem at the government's expense, and Riyadh would hire lawyers to pursue the workers' claims and make sure their rights were respected.
"Yesterday (on Tuesday), we contracted all the providers to provide health, catering, maintenance and everything, and we contracted the airlines to send back anybody who wants to go there upon the approval of the Embassy of India," Haqbani said, according to a text of the remarks provided by his ministry.
A total of about 7,700 Indian workers were stranded, according to Indian officials. Of these, 4,072 were staying in worker camps in Riyadh while 2,153 were in Jeddah.
Indian Minister for Foreign Affairs Sushma Swaraj said on Saturday the workers faced a "food crisis" because employers had not paid their wages. The Jeddah consulate was distributing emergency rations to the workers pending efforts to repatriate them.
Saudi Arabia says it investigates any complaints of companies not paying wages and if necessary obliges these firms to do so or risk fines and other penalties.
Meanwhile, considering the special circumstances in Saudi Arabia, Kerala state cabinet, which met on Wednesday, decided to send Jaleel and Department Special secretary VK Baby, an official release said. They will leave for Saudi Arabia in two days time, it said.
"Objective of the visit is to know the situation of Keralites living in labour camps," Jaleel said.
"According to an information, 200 Keralites are now in labour camps. The information is that they are not getting food. So the mission is to know their plight directly," he said.