New Delhi: External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said on Sunday that her “only regret” in her year in office has been the failure so far to bring back the 39 abducted Indians from Iraq, which she hoped to do soon.
“My only regret is that while we have evacuated thousands of our nationals from Iraq, Ukraine, Yemen, Libya, but the 39 Indians remain in Iraq. I feel my wait will end very soon and we will be successful in bringing them back,” she said at a press conference.
To a question on the fate of the 39 Indians labourers who were abducted by the Islamic State militants a year ago in Mosul, Sushma Swaraj said she has been told by “eight sources” that the men are still alive.
“I have eight sources who say they are alive.. not oral messages but ‘likhit sandesh’ (written messages),” she said, adding that she has shared them with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and her ministerial colleagues Arun Jaitley and Harsimrat Kaur Badal.
She also discounted the version of one of the men who escaped, Harjit Masih, who has claimed that the men were shot dead.
Sushma Swaraj said she treats the search for the men not just as a responsibility but a mission. She said she has spoken to the Middle East countries on the issue more than once.
“I will continue the search and not believe in what that person has said,” she said, referring to Masih.
Giving a break-up of the Indians evacuated from different countries, Sushma Swaraj said that the government had brought back 1,000 students from Ukraine when the crisis unfolded, 7,000 Indians from Iraq when the Islamic State began running over swathes of the country and 4,500 Indians as well as foreign nationals from Yemen earlier this year.
Pime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday attacked previous governments at the Centre for ruling the country like their “Sultanates”, neglecting its rich heritage.
“Past governments ruled like Sultans and neglected our rich heritage. They ignored our glorious civilisation and failed to pay attention to their preservation,” said Modi while addressing a public meeting in Balangir town in Odisha.
“This criminal error will always stick to the parties, who the country gave the opportunity to run governments for decades. Surprisingly, they have not taken lessons from this,” he added.
He also attacked the state government under Naveen Patnaik and said the benefits meant for the people should reach them on time and must not be used as an election tool.
This was Modi’s third visit to the state in the past three weeks and showed the importance that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was attaching to the state ahead of the general and assembly elections.
The Prime Minister said his government was committed to conserving and preserving the country’s rich cultural heritage.
He said his government has been constantly making efforts to bring back the idols stolen from the temples in India.
He also attacked the parties for opposing the International Yoga Day and the construction of the Statue of Unity.
“Some parties were against organising the International Yoga Day. These are the people who did not promote yoga. These people neither understand India nor tourism,” he added.
“They raised questions on erecting the statue of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. But, after becoming the world’s tallest statue, it has generated jobs for people residing around the structure.
“They were also against changing the names of islands in Andaman and Nicobar islands,” said Modi.
He said the central government has cancelled around six crore fake ration cards, gas connections, scholarships with wrong names, grabbing pension under wrong names over the last four years.
“We plugged these leakages, saving crores of rupees. All ration cards have been digitised and around 80 per cent of them have been linked with Aadhaar,” said the Prime Minister.
“The middlemen used to loot the money meant for poor. We have stopped this. We ensured everyone gets what they deserve,” he added.
The Prime Minister said there are people, who are angry because he has put a stop to their loot and corruption.
Highlighting the developmental works being carried out by the Centre in the state, he attacked the Odisha government for failing to utilise the District Mineral Foundation (DMF) fund in the mineral bearing areas.
“Odisha has Rs 4,000 crore in its DMF Fund which has remained unutilised so far. What has happened to the government? It is in deep slumber. The government of Odisha should ensure that the benefits reach the tribal people.
“Do not wait for the elections. Ease the problems of people, elections will keep coming,” said Modi.
He said the central government has allocated over Rs 20,000 crore for the development of Railways in Odisha in the last four years alone, which is five times more than the allocation by the previous government.
In a month, development projects worth more than Rs 20,000 crore have been either inaugurated or initiated in Odisha, said Modi. (IANS)