Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday announced ex gratia compensation of Rs 10 lakh each for families of the victims who were killed in Mosul in Iraq by the Islamic State.
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said that the compensation will be given from the Prime Minister’s Relief Fund.
The mortal remains of the 38 Indians were brought back to India from Iraq in a special IAF aircraft by Minister of State External Affairs VK Singh on Monday afternoon.
Among those killed were 27 from Punjab, four from Himachal Pradesh, six from Bihar and two from West Bengal.
Speaking to reporters on Monday, Singh said, “We are thankful to the authorities in Iraq for the help (they rendered) to locate the victims and exhume the mortal remains. The government of India did its best to know about the missing Indians.”
Singh had also courted controversy with a remark he made on a question on compensation. He said, “This is not like distributing biscuits, I do not have like a box of money in my pocket that I will just declare the compensation right now… this matter concerns people’s lives.”
The flight landed in Amritsar where 27 coffins were handed over to officials from Punjab. Four coffins were taken to Himachal Pradesh. The remaining seven coffins were shifted to another aircraft to be flown to West Bengal and Bihar.
The Islamic State had in June 2014 killed 39 Indians who were at the time employed as construction workers by an Iraqi company in Mosul. DNA tests had confirmed that 38 of the bodies were of the Indians reported missing at the time. The identification of one of the bodies – of Raju Yadav from Bihar – is still pending.
The victims’ families were told by officials not to open the coffins since the mortal remains had been exhumed from graves and could emit toxic gases.
However, most have refused the direction and said that they would opt for a traditional cremation.
On Monday, Congress leader Navjot Singh Sidhu announced a compensation of Rs 5 lakh and job for one person from each of the 27 families of the victims. He added that the pension of Rs 20,000 currently given will continue.
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had informed Parliament on March 20 that all 39 Indian construction workers kidnapped in 2014 from Mosul have been killed.
The Minister had earlier said that she will not consider them dead unless there was proof in this regard, rejecting lone survivor Harjit Masih’s claim that the captives were shot dead.
Swaraj had said that the bodies of the 39 Indians were exhumed from a mound in Badush in Iraq using deep penetration radar. She said that the grave had exactly 39 bodies some of them having distinctive features like long hair. A ‘kara’ – an item of faith worn by the Sikhs – was also recovered from the spot.