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Iraq crisis: Sushma wants Parliament to issue Ramzan appeal to captors of 41 Indian workers

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on November 25, 2017 Published on July 24, 2014


With the Opposition raising concern over 41 Indian workers held captive in Iraq since June 18, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj assured the Lok Sabha that as per reports from various sources, the workers were “alive, safe and being given food.”

“They are all like my children,” she said, adding that the Government was in constant touch with all Gulf countries’ ambassadors. ​ She said the Prime Minister was also concerned and takes a daily update from her on the matter.​

Swaraj also suggested that Parliament should issue an appeal to the captors to release the workers as a “Ramzan gift” before Eid next week. “The holy period of Ramzan is on. The House should appeal to those who have kept these 41 Indians captive to release them before Eid as a special Ramzan gift,” she said while replying to a calling attention motion moved by KC Venugopal of the Congress Dharanvira Gandhi of Aam Aadmi Party and RSP’s N K Premachandran,​

​Swaraj said her Ministry had classified Indians in Iraq into three cat​egories – safe, captive and stranded. ​Of about 22,000

​Indian​s​ in Iraq, 15,000 Indians in Kurdistan were ‘safe’, the 41 workers with whom there was no direct contact were ‘captive’ and the rest were stranded as the companies they were working for had withheld their passports ​, she said​.

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“If the stranded people want to come back without passports, the Government is ready to provide emergency travel certificates as also pay for their tickets,” the Minister said, adding that the Government had already provided tickets to 3,113 persons so far, of which 803 were from Andhra Pradesh/Telangana, 662 from Punjab, 385 from Uttar Pradesh, 294 Kerala, 272 from Rajasthan, 218 from Bihar, 132 from West Bengal, 23 from Tamil Nadu and 11 from Odisha 11.

Of the 41 workers held captive, 31 belong to Punjab, four each to Himachal Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh and two to West Bengal, Swaraj said.

She said India has had “very good historical relations” with Iraq and “it must be recalled that several years ago, it was this House that had passed a resolution and we did not send our armed forces to Iraq,” Swaraj said.

However, the House did not adopt a resolution as the Speaker Sumitra Mahajan took up the next item on the agenda immediately after Swaraj ended her reply to the motion.

To questions of whether any ransom had been sought and the action plan to get the workers released, Swaraj refused to divulge any details, saying the fundamental principle of such negotiations was secrecy. “Did you get to know our plan when we got the 46 nurses from Kerala released?” she asked members from Kerala.

Earlier, moving the calling attention motion, Congress member Venugopal urged the Centre to waive education loans taken by the nurses who had returned to Kerala, as they were jobless now. He also asked the Centre help them get their salary arrears.

RSP’s Premachandran and AAP’s Gandhi wanted a rehabilitation package for those returning from Iraq. Gandhi also urged the government to convene an all-party meeting.

Meanwhile, the worried families of the captive workers from Punjab, who have had no contact with them since June 18, continue to sit on dharna at Jantar Mantar, seeking Central help for their safe release.

Published on July 24, 2014
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