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HindustanTimes Sun,21 Sep 2014

2,000 Punjabis still stranded in Iraq

Gurpreet Singh Nibber , Hindustan Times  Chandigarh, June 25, 2014
First Published: 09:47 IST(25/6/2014) | Last Updated: 10:09 IST(25/6/2014)

As the Centre’s rescue efforts and negotiations with terror groups in Iraq fail to bear fruit, thousands of Indians remain stuck in the strife-torn country. Most of the stuck Indians are Punjabis, and the number is being put at 2,000.

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“There is none for our wellbeing here,” Sanjeev Kumar, who hails from Jalandhar and works as a mason in the Iraqi city of Najaf, 300km from capital Baghdad, told HT over telephone. The hot weather adds to the misery. “During most part of the day, we are made to work in the open. As strong, hot winds blow, many Punjabis have fallen ill, and there is no medical aid,” he complained.

Blaming travel agents in Punjab and ineffective control by the Indian government agencies, Sanjeev, who moved to Iraq three months ago, said he was cheated and never paid the wages as promised while leaving India.

He rues that his family back home is in a bad shape as he has not been able to send them any money. “Also, the travel agents never told me that politically the country was so unstable. When I arrived, it turned from bad to worse,” he added.

Sanjeev said he along with 500 workers was in a construction camp under heavy security and not allowed to go out. “We are not even allowed to freely talk over telephone,” he added. He said he did not know when he would return to India as his passport is with the construction company, “and the site manager has not come to the site for the past several days”.

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