Congress asks VK Singh's apology over the "shameful" remark giving compensation to the families of 39 Indian workers killed in Iraq "is not like distributing biscuits".
A parliamentary panel on Monday asked the top officials of the Ministry of External Affairs to come up with a new mechanism to ensure safety and security of Indians working abroad after 39 Indian workers were killed by IS in Iraq.
There was no record of the Indians killed by the Islamic State in Iraq in any embassy, Minister of State for External Affairs V K Singh said on Monday.
The deceased Indians had gone through illegal travel agents, said V K Singh.
The mortal remains of 38 Indians, out of 39, killed in Iraq, arrived at the Amritsar International Airport on Monday, officials confirmed.
A special aircraft carrying the mortal remains of the Indians landed at Amritsar from Baghdad around 2.30 pm. VK Singh went to Mosul to bring back the dead bodies.
If the government had any information about these people being in danger, it could have tried to save them, said VK Singh.
Punjab Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu on Monday announced ex-gratia of Rs 500,000 for the next kin of the 27 Indians belonging from Punjab.
Singh informed that the mortal remains of only 38 Indians would be brought back to the country because one case remained pending. MoS Singh also said that the Centre would hand over the coffins of the deceased to their kin, with evidence -- so that their relatives had no doubts.
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has called on the 'Bharat Bandh' protesters to ensure that the mortal remains of the Iraq victims are allowed to be transported to their native villages without any impediment. Amritsar's Deputy Commissioner Kamaldeep Singh Sangha said that all arrangements to transport the mortal remains of the Mosul victims to their native places in Punjab and Himachal had been made. The families will reach Amritsar airport in the morning as the aircraft expected to return with the mortal remains will land around 1.30 pm.
Some relatives of the Iraq victims have said that the Government of India must provide jobs to the families of the deceased so that they can manage their survival. The families of the deceased have sought financial help as their bread earners are dead and also government jobs for the next of kin.
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had on March 20 informed Rajya Sabha members of Parliament that the 39 Indian nationals who went missing in Mosul in 2014 had been killed by the terrorist outfit Islamic State. The revelation sparked a row, with the Opposition accusing the Narendra Modi-led government at the Centre of being insensitive in not informing the victims' kin first. The government's treatment of the matter was also criticised by the families of the victims. The grieving families had one question to ask the Modi government: Why did you keep us in the dark for so long?
Of the 39 victims, 27 hailed from Punjab, four from Himachal Pradesh, six from Bihar, and two from West Bengal. They were construction workers employed by an Iraqi company in Mosul. The victims were taken hostage when ISIS took control of the second-largest city in Iraq. They were trying to leave Mosul when they were abducted. Their mortal remains were exhumed from a mass grave in Badush, a village northwest of Mosul in Iraq.
The names of the 39 Indians killed in Iraq by ISIS were confirmed by Swaraj. According to the External Affairs Ministry, the deceased Indians hailing from Punjab were Dharminder Kumar, Harish Kumar, Harsimranjeet Singh, Kanwaljit Singh, Malkit Singh, Ranjit Singh, Sonu, Sandeep Kumar, Manjinder Singh, Gurcharan Singh, Balwant Rai, Roop Lal, Devinder Singh, Kulwinder Singh, Jatinder Singh, Nishan Singh, Gurdeep Singh, Kamaljit Singh, Gobinder Singh, Pritpal Sharma, Sukhwinder Singh, Jasvir Singh, Parvinder Kumar, Balvir Chand, Surjeet Mainka, Nand Lal, and Rakesh Kumar. Those from Himachal Pradesh were Aman Kumar, Sandeep Singh Rana, Inderjeet, and Hem Raj. While Samar Tikadar and Khokhan Sikder hailed from West Bengal, Santosh Kumar Singh, Bidya Bhushan Tiwari, Adalat Singh, Sunil Kumar Kushwaha, Dharamendra Kumar, and Raju Kumar Yadav were from Bihar. Except for Raju Kumar Yadav, the bodies of all others have been identified through DNA samples.
Here are the top developments regarding the bodies of 38 Indians killed by ISIS in Mosul being brought back from Iraq today:
1) Sack VK Singh for his remark: Congress
Congress asks Minister of State for External Affairs VK Singh's apology over the "shameful" remark giving compensation to the families of 39 Indian workers killed in Iraq "is not like distributing biscuits". The party also demanded an apology from him as well as Prime Minister Narendra Modi, saying the remark was "shameful, reprehensible and unacceptable".
"Arrogance has gone to the head of Modi government and its ministers. Does Singh feel that the 39 families are beggars. Isn't he the same person who compared Dalit children with dogs. Should the PM and Singh not apologise for this?" he asked.
2) Ensure safety and security of Indians working abroad
A Parliamentary Standing Committee, headed by senior Congress leader Shashi Tharoor, asked the officials to frame a new law for protection and avoiding any harassment to Indians working abroad, reported PTI.
The panel members also questioned Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale over the death of 39 workers in Iraq, to which he replied that he had nothing to add to what External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had already stated.
The agenda of the meeting was issues relating to migrant workers including appropriate legislative framework and skill development initiatives for prospective emigrants with particular emphasis on safety and security of Indian workers in conflict zones.
3) Govt has no records of Indians travelling to Mosul: VK Singh
There was no record of the Indian captured by the IS in Iraq as they had travelled through illegal travel agents, VK Sing said.
"We have told each state that law and order is their responsibility and they should catch illegal agents in their respective states and take action against them... States and the Centre should work collectively in this direction. We do not want anybody to go illegally abroad.
We want people to go legally so that we have their record," he said.
The minister said that had the government had any information about these people being in danger, it could have tried to save them.
He emphasised that both the state and central governments should work collectively to ensure the gullible people do not fall prey to illegal travel agents.
4) Bodies of Indians killed in Iraq arrive in India: The mortal remains of the Indians killed in Iraq by ISIS, have arrived at the Amritsar International Airport. As the aircraft carrying the coffins landed at the airport, an air of gloom descended as distraught families looked at the caskets. Minister of State for External Affairs V K Singh left for Mosul on Sunday on bring back their bodies.
5) Rs 5,00,00ex-gratia for victim's family: Navjot Singh Sidhu announced Rs 500,000 ex-gratia for the families of 27 Indians belonging from Punjab. Apart from this, he assured job for a person from the family of victims and said that the pension of Rs 20, 000 which currently being provided to the kin's will continue.
6) Families of Iraq victims will be given evidence along with mortal remains: MoS Singh said that the Centre will hand over the coffins containing the remains of the Mosul victims to their kin along with evidence -- so that they have no doubts. Singh is expected to bring back the bodies to India by late Monday. Following which, he will travel to Amritsar, in Punjab, and Patna, in Bihar, to hand over the mortal remains to their respective families. Click here for our detailed coverage on the government's announcement of 39 Indians killed in Iraq by ISIS: Iraq tragedy: Congress to move privilege motion against Swaraj; top updates
7) Amarinder Singh calls on protestors to allow bodies of Iraq victims to be transported without impediment: In the wake of the 'Bharat Bandh' protest called by several Dalit organisations, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has appealed to the protesters to ensure that the mortal remains of the Indians, killed by ISIS in Iraq, are allowed to be transported to their native villages without any difficulty. Singh has also directed the state police to provide strict security for the transport of the Iraq victims' remains.
Earlier, Amarinder Singh had spoken to MoS V K Singh to follow up on the issue of bringing back the mortal remains of the Indian hostages killed in ISIS captivity in Iraq. The Punjab chief minister had called up and also written to External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on the issue. Click here for our coverage on Sushma Swaraj's announcement on the killing of 39 Indians by ISIS in Mosul and the political row that ensued: 39 Indians killed in Iraq's Mosul; govt fooled kin, says Congress; updates
8) Amritsar DC says all arrangements to receive bodies of Iraq victims are in place: As MoS V K Singh left for Iraq to bring back the bodies of 38 Indians, including 27 from Punjab, who were killed by ISIS, a senior official said that the authorities in Amritsar were making all the required arrangements to receive the mortal remains expected to arrive by a special aircraft today afternoon.
"All necessary arrangements have been made to transport the mortal remains of Indians killed in Iraq, who hail from different places in Punjab and Himachal, to their native places when the bodies reach tomorrow," Amritsar Deputy Commissioner Kamaldeep Singh Sangha said on Sunday. ALSO READ: Bodies of 38 Indians to be brought back from Iraq today
9) Families of Indians killed in Iraq demand government jobs: The families of the Iraq victims expect government assistance in what is a difficult time for them. Gurpinder Kaur, the sister of Majinder Singh, one of the Indians who was killed by ISIS in Mosul, said that the Narendra Modi-led government must provide jobs to the families of the deceased so that they can manage their survival. Speaking to news agencies, Kaur said that the government should also provide employment opportunities in Punjab so that people do not have to go to foreign nations.
"Initially, we were waiting for them but for the past 10 days, we have been waiting for their mortal remains. All we now hope and expect the government to do is give employment to the families of the deceased so that they can manage their survival," she said.
Kaur also called for tough action against unregistered agents who cheat people and send them wrongly to such nations.
Davinder Singh, younger brother of Gobinder Singh, who was among those killed in Iraq, told news agencies after meeting Swaraj in New Delhi, "We were assured all kind of assistance, including the possibility of a government job to the next of kin." The families of the deceased sought financial help as their bread earners were dead and government jobs for the next of kin. "The minister told us that she would meet the chief ministers of the four states from where the Indians belonged to take a decision on the possibility of providing a government job to the next of kin," he said.
ALSO READ: Bodies of 39 killed in Iraq to be brought in a week: Swaraj to families
10) Parliamentary standing committee on external affairs will today discuss the safety and security of Indians working abroad: In the wake of 39 Indian workers being killed in Iraq, a parliamentary panel has called a meeting today to deliberate upon the "safety and security of Indian workers in conflict zones". The parliamentary standing committee on external affairs, headed by Congress MP Shashi Tharoor, will deliberate upon various issues related to Indian migrant workers.
According to the Lok Sabha Secretariat, the agenda of the meeting is "issues relating to migrant workers including appropriate legislative framework and skill development initiatives for prospective emigrants with particular emphasis on safety and security of Indian Workers in conflict zones". The meeting was called after the report of the Indian workers' death in Iraq. The members of the panel feel there is a need to develop a legislative framework to ensure the security of Indians working abroad, a source said.
Sources also said that the panel is likely to be briefed by senior officials of the external affairs ministry. Members of the panel are also likely to raise the issue of Indian workers' death in Iraq during the meeting today, the source said.
ALSO READ: Mosul deaths: Swaraj retweets Congress poll favouring her
Punjab govt to provide assistance package to families of Iraq victims: Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh last week said that the state government would work out a proper assistance package for the families of those from Punjab among the 39 Indians killed by ISIS in Iraq and till then, they would continue to get a monthly pension. In his reply to the debate on the motion of thanks on the Governor's address to the Assembly, the chief minister said that while the state was waiting for the bodies of those confirmed as dead in Mosul, his government was also working out an adequate assistance package for their families.
He told the House that he had requested the Ministry of External Affairs to announce ex gratia to the families of the Iraq victims and that his government was awaiting their decision.
Read what a concerned Business Standard reader had to say about the Modi government's handling of the Mosul tragedy: Letter to BS: Why did Centre keep families of Mosul victims in the dark?
Nitish Kumar has assured all help to families of Indians killed in Iraq: Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on March 21 condemned the killing of 39 Indians by ISIS in Iraq, six of whom were from the state. Describing the killings as "dastardly", Kumar said that the entire state stood in solidarity with the families of the six persons killed in Mosul, an official release said.
Further, the chief minister assured that all help would be provided by the state government to the bereaved families, the release said.
Himachal CM announced ex gratia for Mosul victims: Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur on March 21 announced Rs 400,000 ex gratia each to the next of kin of the four people belonging to the state who were abducted by the ISIS in Iraq's Mosul in 2014 and subsequently killed. Expressing condolences, Thakur, who talked to family members on the phone, said that the state government was with them in their time of distress.
Out of the four Himachalis, three belonged to the Kangra district and one was from the Mandi district. Thakur said that the tragedy was not only unfortunate but also an inhumane act of brutality, which should be condemned by one and all.