There are around three million Indian citizens living in Saudi Arabia, which relies on the vast population of low-paid foreign workers for cheap labor in sectors like construction. The poor working conditions for ex-pat laborers in Saudi Arabia and in neighboring Gulf countries have drawn condemnation from rights groups in the past.
Low oil prices have forced the Saudi government to slash spending since last year, putting heavy pressure on the finances of local construction firms which rely on state contracts. As a result, some companies have been struggling to pay foreign workers and have laid off tens of thousands, leaving many with no money for food let alone for tickets home.
India said it will send a government minister to Saudi Arabia to try to bring back more than 10,000 Indian workers who are facing a “food crisis” because they are unable to afford meals after being laid off from their jobs. Some workers got receive a bit of relief after the Indian consulate distributed almost 16,000 kilograms of food to them.
Many workers have taken to the streets Saturday in protest against the conglomerate Saudi Oger Ltd. and said they want to get paid before they leave the country. They haven’t received a salary in seven months and that they last received food from the company on July 20.
“We want our salaries, our passports, and our plane tickets home,” said a worker called Deepak Kumar, who has been living in the kingdom since 2009.
“They are not returning our passports. The company said we need to buy our own tickets and then we’ll get our passports back,” said Adam Ali, who has been working for Saudi Oger for six years on a monthly salary of 1,215 Saudi riyals ($324). “We are unhappy and we are tired. We just don’t know what to do. There are eight to nine people living in each room. We are drinking water that we normally use for taking a bath.”
The World Socialist Party (India): 257 Baghajatin ‘E’ Block (East), Kolkata – 700086,