At least 62 men from Tamil Nadu and one from Kerala, have been stranded in Saudi Arabia without any salary from their employer and no help from the Indian embassy for the past four months.
61 of them were working as fishermen and two were working as drivers in Saudi Arabia under a private employer.
On Saturday, several families of the stranded men met the Tamil Nadu fisheries minister D Jayakumar to request Chief Minister Jayalalithaa to highlight this issue during her visit to Delhi to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi on June 14, 2016.
“These fishermen stopped working in February as they have not been properly paid by the employer. They were being given salary once in three months or six months. Fed up of the irregularities, the fishermen told the employer that they are not going to work till they are paid salary for the last six months, the employer responded by saying that they have to follow their rules,” says M Karunamoorthy, District Secretary of Tamil Nadu Meenpidi Tholirsanga Koottamaipu, Ramanathapuram.
Speaking to The News Minute, Sethuraja, father of one of the fisherman, 27-year-old Muthuraja, says, “My son went to Saudi Arabia last year and since then he has not been given any salary,” and adds, “We had sent him to Saudi Arabia thinking he will help in improving the financial condition of the family. Now, we just want our son back.”
These fishermen hail from different districts in Tamil Nadu like Nagapattinam, Cuddalore and Ramanathapuram.
And it isn’t just the salary. Karunamoorthy narrates as to how one fishermen’s mother died and the employer did not even allow him to come back to India, and he did not have money to send it to his family either. The passports of these 63 men is also with the employer and he is not ready to give it back to them, according to the activist.
Sethuraja adds that even his son’s wedding was fixed but the employer did not allow him to come back and get married. “Now, my son does not even have proper food to eat and they are staying at someone else’s house. We just want the Indian government to help them to get back to India,” he said.
The Indian embassy have not been helpful either, says Karunamoorthy. “These men contacted the Indian embassy in Riyadh in February and were asked to contact the embassy in another place. Whenever we conduct a rally in Tamil Nadu or send a petition to the ministry, the Indian embassy will go and check the men and be in touch, but after two days they will stop responding,” he says.
The families have given petition to the district collector’s in five districts. They also conducted a rally on May 9, 2016. Petitions have been sent to the Chief Minister’s cell, external affairs ministry and also to the fisheries minister who they met recently on Saturday. “Even after all this, there has been no response from any ministry,” says Karunamoorthy.
On April 2, 2016, Chief Minister Jayalalithaa had sent a letter to Prime Minister Narendra asking for repatriation of 63 stranded Indian fishermen in Saudi Arabia.