Govt pursuing return of Indian workers with Gulf nations: Jaishankar

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar speaking in Rajya Sabha during the Budget Session of Parliament in New Delhi on Thursday. (Sansad TV Grab) (UNI)
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar speaking in Rajya Sabha during the Budget Session of Parliament in New Delhi on Thursday. (Sansad TV Grab) (UNI)

NEW DELHI, Feb 3: The Government is working to ensure that Indian workers are back to their work and jobs in the Gulf and is pursuing the issue with its counterparts in the region at the highest level, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar told the Rajya Sabha on Thursday.
He also said with the economic recovery in the Gulf and its increasing openness to ease travel restrictions following a receding trend in COVID-19 cases, many Indian workers are now returning back to the region.
As per the Government’s estimates, as many as 7,16,662 workers returned to India from the six Gulf countries — the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and Bahrain — under the ‘Vande Bharat Mission’.
“I would like to inform…We have engaged with the Governments of the Gulf. This engagement is led by the prime minister himself. In the course of the last two years, during the Covid period, the Prime Minister has had 16 telephonic conversations with his counterparts, the leaders of the Gulf countries,” Jaishankar said while replying to supplementary questions in the House during the Question Hour.
He said he has visited the Gulf countries 13 times and Minister of State for External Affairs V Muraleedharan four times.
“Our objective is to get as many workers back there as possible, as many of them back to their old jobs,” Jaishankar said.
He said as the pandemic has receded in recent months, the focus has shifted to pressing for the return of workers and families to their workplaces on an expeditious basis.
To that end, all Gulf nations were pressed to establish air bubbles and ease visa, travel and health restrictions, the minister said.
All countries in the Gulf have responded favourably to these efforts by the Government of India, as a result of which, there has been a steady flow of returnees back to these countries, he added.
The Minister said Indian Missions/Posts are continuing to pursue with the Governments in the Gulf countries the return of Indian workers, the realisation of payments due to them, new recruitment in the light of economic recovery and other welfare measures as appropriate.
“…Retaining employment, ensuring that wages are paid, ensuring welfare of workers, these have been very much the priority of our missions in the Gulf. From the highest level we have been engaged on this matter and we have been regularly talking to the Governments of the Gulf at my level and at the ambassadors’ level,” Jaishankar added.
He said during the COVID-19 pandemic, Indian Missions and Posts facilitated the return of Indian workers stranded abroad through the ‘Vande Bharat Mission’.
They also proactively extended support to Indians both directly using the Indian Community Welfare Fund and by coordinating with community associations. This included expenses on a need basis pertaining to boarding and lodging, air passages and emergency medical care, the External Affairs Minister added.
The robust framework established by the Government, especially since 2014, was extremely useful in meeting the emergency needs that arose due to the pandemic, he said. (PTI)