New Delhi, Aug. 5 : Responding to allegations made by Kerala Local Administration and Minority Affairs Minister K T Jaleel that it was unfair to not grant him a diplomatic passport for a visit Saudi Arabia, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said on Friday that the 'timing' of his visit was not right.
"The matter is not about the issue of a diplomatic passport but the timing of a ministerial visit. At this time the focus of our mission and consulate in Saudi Arabia is on helping the Indian workers who are facing hardships and also on helping the Indian pilgrims who arrived in the holy city of Mecca for the sacred Haj pilgrimage," MEA Official Spokesperson Vikas Swarup said in a press conference.
Swarup added that it cannot be anybody's case that the mission should not pay attention to the requirements of the Indian citizens including, those in distress.
The Centre's decision to deny diplomatic passport to Jaleel for Saudi Arabia visit to meet the Indian workers trapped in migrant camps there after their employers laid them off, was met with a lot of criticism.
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan termed the decision as "unfortunate" and said that Jaleel had been deputed by the state government to visit Saudi Arabia for an on-the-spot assessment of the situation as the families of the workers back home were extremely concerned.
To address these concerns, the state had decided to send the minister to talk to those in the labour camps directly and hear their problems.
Earlier today, former minister of states for external affairs and Thiruvananthapuram MP Shashi Tharoor also condemned the Centre's decision to not give a diplomatic passport to Jaleel.
In a Facebook post, Tharoor said, "Deplorable behaviour by the Ministry of External Affairs. Why shouldn't the affected state send its own minister to see to the welfare of its citizens?" Reportedly, at least 300 Keralites are stranded in Saudi Arabia.
Jaleel has cancelled his Saudi visit for now and has clarified that he will not take the visit unless his diplomatic passport receives clearance.