Minister of State for External Affairs VK Singh, who led the efforts to bring back the bodies of the Indians killed in Iraq, has been criticised for his insensitive remarks regarding compensation to the kin of the deceased.
Speaking to reporters at the Amritsar airport on 2 April, on the possibility of offering compensation, Singh said:
Yeh biscuit baantne wala kaam nahi hai, ye aadmiyon ki zindagi ka sawal hai, aa gayi baat samajh mein? Main abhi elaan kahan se karoon? Jeb mein koi pitaara thodi rakha hua hai. (This is not like distributing biscuits, this is about people’s lives. How do I make any announcement now? I don’t carry a treasure chest around.)Minister of State for External Affairs VK Singh
Speaking at the Amritsar airport, Singh added that the workers were “illegal immigrants” and the Indian Embassy in Iraq had no record of them. When Singh was further asked about jobs for the kin of the deceased workers who went missing in 2014, he said, “this is not a game of football”.
“My suggestion to the families is that we have got your people back. Do their last rites. Don’t get involved in unnecessary politics,” Hindustan Times quoted the ministeras saying.
Demanding Singh’s resignation, the Congress sought an apology from him as well as Prime Minister Narendra Modi, saying the remark was "shameful, reprehensible and unacceptable".
Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said that External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and her deputy VK Singh continued to mislead the families of 39 Indians, killed by ISIS in Iraq's Mosul, by giving them false hopes that they were alive though knowing well there was overwhelming evidence that they had been killed.
Trinamool Congress leader Derek O'Brien also termed the remark “insensitive” and said the minister used "inappropriate words".
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had told the Parliament in March that the bodies of the Indian workers who were abducted in 2014 by the ISIS were found in a mound near Mosul and their death was confirmed after matching DNA samples. The body of the 39th Indian has not been brought back since the DNA tests are still in progress.
(With inputs from Hindustan Times)
(This story has been updated.)