The Punjab government on Friday claimed that at least 11 Punjabis had been reported kidnapped in strife-torn Iraq, according to information received from their families.
The list released by the government includes Dharminder Singh of Talwandi Jhurian village (Gurdaspur); Kulwant Singh of Bhagatpura village (Gurdaspur); Gurcharan Singh, Gobinder Singh, Kanwaljeet Singh, Jatinder Singh, Harsimran Singh, Gagandeep Singh and Manjinder Singh (all from Jalandhar); Rakesh Kumar (Hoshiarpur) and Gobinder Singh (Kapurthala).
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The state government also submitted a detailed report of nearly 200 Punjabis stuck in Iraq to the union ministry of external affairs. Some Iraq-based Punjabis also rang up the control room set up by the state government at Chandigarh and gave information about their whereabouts.
Stating this, NRI affairs minister Tota Singh said Punjabis in Iraq were safe, adding that the Centre should arrange for their safe exit as soon as possible because conditions in that country were worsening by the day.
The minister said the Punjabis who contacted the control room from Iraq informed that they were safe but wanted to return to India, hence the union government should speed up efforts for their safe evacuation.
Tota Singh stated that till 5 pm on Friday, more than 200 families had rung up the control room, giving details about their relatives.
He said the control room numbers (0172-2740397 and 2740035) were regularly being flashed on TV channels, adding that the social media was also being helpful in this regard. He added that on Thursday, 78 people contacted the control room to provide information about their relatives, while more than 122 people had done it till 5 pm on Friday.
Tota Singh said senior officials of the state government were coordinating with the external affairs ministry, while chief minister Parkash Singh Badal was in regular touch with union minister for external affairs Sushma Swaraj for the safe return of Punjabis from Iraq.
As per calls made to the control room by families, the stranded Punjabis include 34 from Ropar, 29 from Jalandhar, 28 from Kapurthala, 23 from Amritsar, 22 from Gurdaspur, 13 from Hoshiarpur, 12 from Fatehgarh Sahib, 9 from Ludhiana, 7 from Nawanshahr, six from Patiala, five each from Pathankot and SAS Nagar, three from Barnala, and one each from Bathinda, Tarn Taran and Moga districts.