Kerala Local Self Government Minister K.T. Jaleel, on Thursday evening said he was denied a diplomatic passport to Saudi Arabia. He was asked by the state government to fly to the country to coordinate efforts with Kerala cultural groups amid reports of hundreds of Keralites in the Gulf kingdom having been rendered jobless and facing a food crisis.
Speaking to reporters, Jaleel said that he is surprised by the turn of events.
"We were expecting to fly out to Saudi Arabia the moment my visit was cleared. When we checked out on the website, we were surprised to see that my application for a diplomatic passport was denied. It's too early to say if there was a political motive behind the denial," he said.
The state cabinet on Wednesday had asked Jaleel and state government official V.J. Baby to fly to Saudi Arabia to meet up with Keralites who are reported to have been holed up in labour camps, many of them being denied salaries and finding it tough to get food and water, following financial problems faced by a few Saudi Arabian companies.
Jaleel had planned to arrive first at Jeddah and had already established contact with various Kerala cultural organisations there who were to assist him.
Union Minister of State for External Affairs V.K. Singh is in Saudi Arabia to coordinate with Saudi officials to airlift Indians wishing to return.
Meanwhile, a source in the know of things said that Jaleel will have no problem in travelling on a normal passport.
Our correspondent adds:
Sources in Jaleel's office say that his travel clearance was objected by the Indian embassy in Riyadh as per the instructions of the government of India. Jaleel has postponed his trip till further notice.
He told reporters, "Without diplomatic passport, we will not be able to visit the labour camps in Saudi Arabia, as planned. Uttar Pradesh is due for assembly elections next year. Maximum number of expat workers are from that state. Once we send a delegation, other states will demand the same. That could be a reason."