Iraq victims: V.K. Singh’s statement, compensation fuel controversy

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Chandigarh, April 3 (IANS) Minister of State for External Affairs V.K. Singh’s statement that the Indians killed in Iraq were illegal immigrants and the Rs 10 lakh compensation announced by the Central government to families of the victims sparked a fresh controversy in Punjab on Tuesday.

Congress legislators from Amritsar and Gurdaspur districts on Tuesday criticized Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the “meagre relief” announced for the kin of the victims killed by the Islamic State terrorists in Mosul town in Iraq in June 2014.

In a joint statement, Congress legislators Sukhjinder Randhawa, Sukhbinder Singh Sarkaria and Harpartap Ajnala said that the compensation of Rs 10 lakh “announced by Mr Modi was too little and too late” and demanded that it must pay Rs 1 crore each to the families of the 39 victims.

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“The Government of India first tried to play down the tragedy by lying and saying that the victims were alive despite an eyewitness saying that they had been killed two years ago. The Government of India is running away from its duty and responsibility towards its citizens,” they said.

The Congress leaders asked the government whether it had ever issued any preventive and safety advisory for its citizens as where they should avoid going normally done by most of the countries.

“We are sure that the Central government has still not done anything of that sort despite the fact that people are still risking their lives and going for work to troubled countries,” they said, while asking the Prime Minister to “learn to value the lives of the Indian citizens”.

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The statement from Gen V.K. Singh (retd), made at the Amritsar airport to the media after he brought the mortal remains of 38 Iraq victims on a special IAF aircraft from Iraq on Monday, that the Iraq victims were illegal immigrants also got sharp reactions from families of the victims.

“What does the minister want to convey. Does he mean that they were illegal immigrants and that the Government of India had no responsibility towards Indian citizens taken hostage in Iraq. Did the government try to rescue them,” the sister of one of the victims asked on Tuesday.

The families rued the fact that they were kept under false hopes for over three years that the victims were alive. They said that the government failed to give adequate compensation despite the fact that all families were quite poor and most had lost their bread winners.

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