HindustanTimes Sun,21 Dec 2014

Batala villager back from Iraq, says situation horrible

Vishal Sally, Hindustan Times  Balewal (Gurdaspur), June 22, 2014
First Published: 10:05 IST(22/6/2014) | Last Updated: 10:16 IST(22/6/2014)

As the situation continues to deteriorate in Iraq and many Indians remain trapped there, a family at this village near Batala has got its smiles back, as one of its men, Jaswant (40), is back from that hell.

The carpenter at private construction company Almita said the situation in the militant-seized Gulf country was “very bad”, and many fellow Punjabis were stranded there. “Terrorists have captured a couple of cities and anytime capital Baghdad can also fall,” said Jaswant.

The owners of the Baghdad factories where the Indians worked have fled, leaving the employees in trouble and with no documents or money to fly home, claims Jaswant, adding that most of the stranded countrymen wait for the Indian government to rescue them.

Jaswant escaped Iraq with six other Indians.

“My 24 Punjabi colleagues remain trapped there. The employer is neither paying them salary nor giving them their passports and air tickets,” he said.

Asked how he was able to return, he recalled: “My brother, Harbans Singh, died of heart attack 15 days ago. When I told the company officials about it, they got me the air ticket but kept my salary.”

Asked about the kidnappings in Mosul, he said having kept in for some time, he was unaware, but the situation was bad certainly.

“The private companies over there don’t pay you what they promise. I was promised a salary of $1,200 but I started on mere $350. Our men are exploited,” he says.

He reached Balewal on Friday night and called up coworkers in Baghdad. “They have also quit working and asked the company for their passports and rescue,” said the man who went to Iraq 18 months ago.

“The family was under severe debt. I borrowed Rs. 1.5 lakh to go to Iraq, to be able to earn and repay the loan, but here I am, back empty-handed, with even more debt,” said Jaswant, not sure whether to worry or be happy.

His family, however, is thankful to the God not worried much about the debt. “My husband has reached home safely and this is the biggest relief for us,” said Jaswant’s wife, Rajwinder Kaur.

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