New Delhi: With the fate of the abducted Indians in Iraq still unknown, Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal has said that his government is even ready to pay a ‘ransom’ to bring the Indians back home. This came after the Ministry of External Affairs confirmed that 40 Indians have been kidnapped in Iraq.
Speaking to CNN-IBN, Badal said, “The government should do the maximum. If they want any, I don’t know whether I should say or not, ransom or anything, the Pujab government is ready to pay all that.”
ALSO SEE Explainer: The unfolding of the crisis in Iraq
“As the state government, I have instructed the Chief Secretary to ask the DCs to visit all the families,” Badal said.As Iraq falls to militants, concerns over the safety of Indians continue to mount. The families of those abducted have now left for Delhi to meet the MEA officials. The abducted Indians were working in the Tariq Noor al Juda construction company.
ALSO SEE 40 Indian workers kidnapped in Iraq, not received any ransom calls: MEA
The government says the location of the kidnapped Indians is not know as yet. The Ministry also said that no ransom calls have been received and that the government is ready to work with anyone who can help in the rescue of the kidnapped Indians. “We will not spare any efforts to help the Indians in Iraq,” the MEA said.
Distraught families of the victims claim that many of the Indians trapped do not even have their passports with them. “They had submitted their passports but when the violence escalated, the company officials fled leaving them to fend for themselves. They are helpless there. Only the Indian government can help us now,” says Gurpender Kaur whose brother is one of those who have been kidnapped.
ALSO SEE Indians trapped in Iraq without passports, families cry for help, However, the family members also said that the construction workers in Iraq are safe but are anxious to return home. “We spoke to Shyam Singh after he was abducted. He was crying on the phone when we spoke on Sunday. Kidnappers are giving food to the victims. They are keeping them in a cotton factory,” Cousin of Kidnapped Indian Charanjit Singh said.
Forty Indian construction workers have been kidnapped in the oil-rich Mosul town of Iraq, presumably by Islamic militants but demands for ransom have yet been received. The workers were working on a construction project in Mosul in northern Iraq which has been captured by Sunni militant group ISIS. Reports said that the kidnapping took place while they were being evacuated on Tuesday.
Assuring assistance from the government, MEA spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said that humanitarian agencies and International Red Cross are in touch and they will not leave any stone unturned to rescue the abducted Indians. “Contingency plan unit is working in Delhi for other options. Former ambassador of India to Iraq Suresh Reddy is going to help reinforce Indian mission,” he said.
Giving out details about the kidnapping of the workers, the MEA spokesperson said that they had received over 60 calls from families of the people who are stuck in Iraq. “Area of uncertainty in security is not where majority of Indians are. We have asked International Red Cross to reach out. It has contacted them and ensure security and welfare. They have been advised not to use the surface route,” he said.
The MEA spokesman said the development has triggered a “very difficult situation” for India which is working with several partners in Iraq as well as elsewhere “to try and see what would be the best ways to take our efforts further”. “We are trying to work with everybody on the ground who can assist us in these difficult circumstances,” he said.
Asked whether government was taking help from the US, he refused to get into operational details, saying in an evolving situation the government was not going to share such information. The government is in touch with the 46 nurses who are stranded in Tikrit town, which was also taken over by the ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) militants.
In response to a request by the Indian embassy, International Red Cross had contacted the nurses. The government, earlier in the day, decided to send former envoy to Iraq Suresh Reddy to strengthen the Indian Mission in Baghdad.
Several Indians have been stranded in different parts of Iraq, which is facing a grave danger to its very existence. The fanatic Islamist organisation ISIS has taken charge of Iraq’s second largest city Mosul. It has committed terrible atrocities and is now moving towards the national capital Baghdad to overthrow the elected government.
According to an estimate, thousands of Indians are working in Oil and construction industry across Iraq. There are many Indians, who are working in the healthcare sector. Iraq is witnessing serious strife with militants, backed by Al-Qaida, capturing various cities and marching towards Baghdad.
The MEA has set up 24 hour control room to provide information on Iraq. Here are the details:
Ph: +91 11 2301 4104
Fax:+91 11 2301 8158