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Kin to get sailor-son's body after long struggle

The body of an Indian sailor, who was killed when an Iranian ship sank more than two months ago, is expected to be returned to his family in New Delhi on Tuesday, marking the end of an agonising struggle by his family, shipping sources have told The Hindu .

There is, however, still no word on the fate of two other Indians on the Iranian-flagged Shab Row, which is believed to have gone down with all hands between Kish Island and Bandar Linge on October 27, 2011.

Dinesh Kumar, the killed sailor, was 25 at the time of the tragedy. His family, which is based in Himachal Pradesh's Palampur district, had spent its entire life savings, Rs. 5 lakh, to send him on the apparently lucrative assignment abroad through an unregistered labour agent.

The other two Indians on the crew, which included four Iranians, were Manoj Yadav from Kolkata and Pavan Kumar Choudhury from Gorakhpur.

Nejoum al-Bahar, the ship's Dubai-based owners, wrote a letter to their agents, informing them that the ship had sunk and one body had been recovered. There has, however, been no authoritative confirmation of the sinking of the ship through official channels, despite the efforts of the Indian Embassy in Tehran. Nor has any compensation been paid to the families of the deceased and missing sailors.

“The Indian Embassy has been very helpful,” said Saroj Yadav, Manoj Yadav's brother, “but there is very little they can do.”

The Directorate-General of Shipping told The Hindu that it had also written at least twice to Iranian maritime authorities seeking confirmation of the sinking, but no reply was received yet.

“This case shows the vulnerabilities and hardships of Indian sailors who go through unregistered agents and then have no one to look up to, no one to protect their interests,” said Shamnad Basheer, a law professor at the National University of Juridical Sciences, Kolkata, who has been helping the families pursue their case. “We need a stronger enforcement mechanism and a better regulatory framework to protect the interests of our seamen who go abroad.”

Members of all the three families spent lakhs of rupees, often the entire savings of their households as well as loans, to send their sons and brothers to unregistered training institutes and illegal agents.

“In such cases, it is very difficult for us to catch hold of anyone or to get detailed information,” said Satish Agnihotri, Director-General of Shipping. None of the agents involved in sending the three sailors abroad were registered with the Directorate-General of Shipping, he added.

“Just get me the body of my son,” said Amarnath Kumar, 60-year-old father of Dinesh Kumar, barely able to hold back his tears.