Families of Indian workers kidnapped in Afghanistan demand government intervention
Family members of 7 Indian power plant workers who were kidnapped in Afghanistan organized a protest on Thursday outside the Ministry of External Affairs, demanding that the government take immediate action to get them released. There has been close to no action from the government to trace the engineers who were abducted from a power plant on May 4. Following the protest, the Minister for External Affairs, Sushma Swaraj, agreed to meet the families on Saturday.
The abducted engineers were natives of Jharkhand, Bihar and Kerala. They were employees of KEC International Limited, an infrastructure company that recently bagged a Rs 226-crore contract in the war-torn country as a sub-contractor of Da Afghanistan Breshna Sherkat (DABS), which operates power generating stations.
The group was reportedly travelling in a Taliban-controlled area with their Afghan driver when they were abducted. The workers were the only wage-earners of their families, which are now struggling to make ends meet. KEC International limited, which used to send a portion of their salaries to the families while they were working, has stopped doing so since the abduction. The families are subsisting on help from neighbours and donations. They had earlier met their respective District Magistrates and even the Governor of Jharkhand but to no avail.
Hemlal Mahto, who came from Jharkhand and is a relative of one of the abducted workers, said, “The family members of the missing workers found out about the kidnapping only when contacted by their colleagues in Afghanistan. We have been meeting all the authorities concerned for over a month but nobody is willing to take any action.”
Vinod Singh, former Member of Legislative Assembly of Bhagodar from the CPI (ML) Liberation, Jharkhand, from where 3 of the abducted workers hail from, addressed the protesters. “ We even met the Chief Minister of Jharkhand and have written several times to the Ministry of External Affairs but so far, we have been greeted with silence. It is well known that unemployment is at an all-time high in the country and people are forced to migrate to other countries in search of work. The Indian government must take responsibility and ensure the safe return of the workers. It is a real test for the Modi Government’s foreign policy.”
Neeraj Kumar, State Secretary of the All India Students Association, which was one the organizers of the agitation, noted that it was only after the protest that the Minister had agreed to meet the families. “If swift action is not taken, we will continue the protests, he said.” Another organizer recalled that earlier, the External Affairs Minister had lied to the country about 39 Indian who had gone missing in Iraq. It was only in 2018, four years after they we kidnapped by Islamic State militants, that the Indian government finally admitted they had died. “This exposes the farce that is the government’s foreign policy as it has failed to ensure the safe return of its citizens, she said.