India spent Rs 45.78 cr for welfare of its people residing in Gulf: S Jaishankar in RS

New Delhi [India], February 3 (ANI): External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Thursday informed the Rajya Sabha that India spent Rs 45.78 crores for the welfare of its citizens, mostly workers in the Gulf during the period of the COVID-19 pandemic in the last two years.

The Minister’s reply came in response to a question asked by Loktantrik Janata Dal MP MV Shreyams Kumar when he asked about how much have Indian Missions abroad spent during the last two years to assist and facilitate the non-resident Indians who suffered in foreign countries due to the COVID situation.

"We spent Rs 45.78 crores for the welfare of our citizens, mostly workers in the Gulf during the period of the COVID using the Indian Community Welfare Fund," said the Minister.

Responding to another question about the loss of wages of Indians working abroad, the Minister said the data of pending salaries are not available but he is taking up the matter with Gulf countries.

"The government does not have the exact figure for the workers whose salaries are pending but assured that Indian Missions in the Gulf ensures retaining employment, ensuring that wages are paid and ensuring the welfare of workers on priority from the highest level," Jaishankar said.

The Minister also said, "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".

Referring to the engagement of the Indian government with governments of the Gulf over the issue, Jaishankar said "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 sixteen telephonic conversations with his counterparts, the leaders of the Gulf countries. I have visited the Gulf countries thirteen times during this period. My colleague Muraleedharan has been there four times. I have also had 27 telephonic meetings with our colleagues," said the Minister.

"Our objective is to get as many workers back there as possible, as many of them, back in their old jobs."The Minister said India has also "started an upskilling centre in Dubai for our workers and all the Missions treat the welfare of workers as their number one priority".

In response to another question, Jaishankar said "we have a provision in the Indian Community Welfare Fund (ICWF) for responding immediately to situations, especially unfortunate situations like the passing away of people".

"The usage of ICWF was expanded in 2017, and, it has been a very useful mechanism for dealing with that. In the Gulf countries, wherever we have had unfortunate occurrences, we have also encouraged ex-gratia payments to be made either by the Government or the employers." (ANI)