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Updated: March 4, 2011 02:36 IST

Hijacked crew's kin anxious as deadline for negotiations ends

K. Balchand
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Union Shipping Minister G.K. Vasan. File Photo: S.S. Kumar
The Hindu Union Shipping Minister G.K. Vasan. File Photo: S.S. Kumar

Discreet steps being taken for their release, says G.K. Vasan

Family members of crew taken hostage after the hijack of merchant ship MV Suez seven months ago are running from pillar to post to get them released as the deadline for negotiations ended.

Relatives of five of the six Indians in captivity on Thursday approached various Union Ministers, including Shipping Minister G.K. Vasan, demanding measures to free them.

On August 2, 2010, pirates took 23 crew members of the Egyptian ship hostage, with 11 Egyptian, four Pakistanis and two Sri Lankans, besides six Indians who have been identified as Prashant Chauhan (Himachal Pradesh), Satnam Singh (Punjab), M.K. Sharma and Sachin (Maharashtra), Ravinder Singh (Haryana) and Viju (Tamil Nadu).

Except for Mr. Viju's family, relatives of the five other crew members expressed concern at the inability of the government to get them released.

Amar Singh Chauhan said his sole prayer was that the government should initiate serious efforts to ensure the safety of his son Prashant and his reunion with the family.

Ms. Sampa, wife of Ravinder Singh, wondered why the government had not taken any action till now. “I saw how comfortably these ministers are living without bothering about the fate of the hostages.” She charged that each day a new explanation was given for the failure to break the impasse in the negotiations. “They only give assurances and say negotiations are underway,” she alleged.

“They [officials] may have a point in not revealing what they are doing or their strategy. But all I want is steps that will ensure the immediate release of my husband. Maybe I have lost him.” The last time she talked to her husband was about a month ago. “What is there for him to say? He will reassure us about his safety and urge us not to lose heart. On other occasions, he would lose hope and ask me to take care of our child.”

Mr. Vasan said that he shared the concern and anxiety of the family members and said all efforts were being made to ensure the safety of the Indian crew and expedite their release.

Emphasising that discreet steps were being taken, Mr. Vasan said that these could not be made public and only diplomatic channels could be used as the owner of the shipping company was an Egyptian. The Shipping Ministry is in touch with the Ministry of External Affairs.

The Shipping Minister was confident that the efforts would yield results.

When it was pointed out that the ship owner had declined to negotiate, Mr. Vasan said that he might not be placing all his cards on the table.

As many as 64 Indians taken hostage in 2010 and 2011 are still in captivity. On the other hand, 150 of those taken hostages in 2007 (28), 2008 (50), 2009 (58), and 2011 (14) have been freed.

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