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HindustanTimes Sat,23 Aug 2014

In touch with stranded men, Mann seeks air tickets for them

HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times  Chandigarh, June 22, 2014
First Published: 10:47 IST(22/6/2014) | Last Updated: 11:32 IST(22/6/2014)

The Aam Aadmi Party’s Sangrur MP, Bhagwant Mann, on Saturday said he was in touch with “hundreds of Indians, especially Punjabis”, who are stranded in Iraq and are desperately seeking help of the Indian government for a safe return to India.

According to Mann, he began to get responses from Iraq when he took up the matter through his Facebook account and shared a helpline number (84375-77527). “Though I don’t have an exact number, according to an estimate there must be nearly 4,000 Indians there, majority of them Punjabis,” said Mann. He said he had got calls from several towns from Punjabis “who are being forced to work for various companies”.

Mann said many of them narrated horror tales of their work conditions: “They have all been taken to Dubai, Jordan and Kuwait first and later sold to various companies in Iraq. Now these companies are demanding hefty sums from these Indians to allow them a safe passage back home.”

Mann said he also has a list of 231 Punjabis along with their names and passports. “However, we cannot make these names public as they fear the operators of those companies will get them eliminated. We need to make arrangements for their air tickets. If I can single handedly get in touch with hundreds of Punjabis in Iraq, why can’t the state government do so with all the paraphernalia at its disposal?” he added.

‘WHERE IS SUKHBIR?’

Mann also took a jibe at Punjab deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal for being away at the time of crisis. Sukhbir is on a private foreign trip.

“I have contacted the chief secretary as well as the principal secretary of the chief minister to know about the whereabouts of Sukhbir to share information on the stranded Punjabis in Iraq.

However, they just told me that he is in some foreign country but they cannot disclose the location due to security reasons. He holds the home affairs portfolio and it is his duty to ensure the safe return of Punjabis,” he said.

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