CHANDIGARH: The Punjab government on Wednesday shot itself in the foot by asking the families of two of the 39 Indian workers killed by the ISIS in Mosul, Iraq to reach the Amritsar airport to collect the remains.
When external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj on Tuesday confirmed the news of their massacre four years ago, she also clarified that it could take eight to 10 days for the remains of the victims to be ferried from Baghdad and that her junior, Gen V K Singh (retired) was being deputed to Iraq to make the arrangements.
Apparently, Punjab didn’t catch the message that played on live television right through Tuesday. The confusion prevailed at the level of the Chief Minister as well.
“We are already among the living dead. The government should not play with our emotions anymore, ’’ said Surjit Kaur, mother of one of the victims, Jasbir Singh.
“The misunderstanding happened because some officials were disseminating such information verbally yesterday (Tuesday). I took action immediately for humanitarian reasons,” said the Deputy Commissioner of Nawanshehar, Amit Kumar.
The families of Parvinder Kumar of Jagatpura village and Jasbir Singh of Mehadpur village were told by the Nawanshahr district administration that they would be escorted to Amritsar by two officers.
In his order on Tuesday, Deputy Commissioner Amit Kumar asked an executive engineer of the Punjab State Power Corporation, Ranjit Singh, and Savinder Pal, inspector with the Punjab Police to ensure the remains reach the homes of the families. The officers were tasked to coordinate with the drivers of the hearses. Copies of the order were sent to the Senior Superintendent of Police, Sub Divisional Magistrate (Balachaur) and the Civil Surgeon. The district administration also informed the media through a message in which Kumar expressed his condolences. The press note was later withdrawn.
“Deputy Commissioner Kumar sahib visited us last night and told us the bodies are coming to the Guru Ram Dass jee airport at Amritsar today morning and thus my relatives went to Amritsar... They should have double checked before telling us,” said Jeet Ram, father of deceased Parvinder Kumar.
Capt Amarinder Singh speaks to VK Singh
Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh has spoken to VK Singh, Minister of State for External Affairs, to find out details on the return of the remains. He said since most of those killed were from the Majha and Doaba regions, the coffins were likely to arrive in Amritsar.
The CM said his government would try to find jobs for the kin of the deceased. It would also continue to pay the Rs 20, 000 compensation which the families were already being given. He said he would also urge the Centre to give compensation to the families of those killed.
Harpreet Bajwa@ Chandigarh