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HindustanTimes Fri,19 Sep 2014

Sushma Swaraj's statement on Punjabi youths in Iraq disputed

Surinder Maan , Hindustan Times  Moga, August 10, 2014
First Published: 21:28 IST(10/8/2014) | Last Updated: 21:31 IST(10/8/2014)

The Punjab Welfare Society, a Kuwait-based social organisation, has disputed external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj's statement that the government could not establish a  direct contact with the nearly 41 Punjabi youths, who have been struggling for their release from Iraq.

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The society claimed that it had sent an e-mail regarding the current status of the youths stuck in Iraq with a solid proof to the minister's office from Kuwait on July 31.

Nearly 50 Punjabi youths, who belonged to Amritsar, Gurdaspur, Fatehgarh Sahib and Jalandhar districts, have been struggling to get help for their release from south Mosul city of Iraq for the last two months. The society had also released a letter, written by the Punjabi youths to their parents and office-bearers of the society, in which they had stated that they were huddled together in a room in south Mosul. The society claimed that a copy of this letter had also been sent to the minister via e-mail.

Talking to Hindustan Times over phone from Kuwait, Ram Singh Sahota, chairman of the society, said that if the society had informed the minister about the Punjabi youths with their passport numbers, photos, videos as well as the current location of the youths, then how can the minister say that the government could not establish a direct contact with the youths?

The office-bearers of the society alleged that the office of the minister did not even bother reply to the society's e-mail. "We had called up twice to the minister's personal assistant (PA) on July 31 and discussed about the youths in detail and the PA had assured them that the government would take up this matter with the Iraq government immediately but no action has been taken so far, said Sahota.

Rajveer Singh Sandhu Bhaluria, state in-charge of the Punjab Welfare Society, said here on Sunday, "We had also informed the external affairs ministry about the letter the Punjabi youths had written." The youths had stated in the letter the travel agents, who had brought them to Iraq, were asking them to pay $25,000, if they wanted to get back their passports and other documents for returning to India."

Now the society has decided to meet the minister on the issue soon. "A deputation comprising five senior members of the society would go to India next week for meeting Sushma Swaraj. We will hand over all relevant documents of the youths living near Basra and south Mosul cities of Iraq under constant risk for the last two months. We have also decided to submit a list of bogus travel agents to the minister who are responsible for this situation," said Sahota.

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