Chandigarh, March 20 : Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Tuesday asked External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj to provide all necessary assistance to the families of the hostages killed in Iraq in performing the last rites, along with an ex-gratia relief for them.
The Chief Minister, who wrote to Sushma Swaraj on the issue, also called her to speak to her personally to ensure that the central government makes all efforts to bring the mortal remains of the deceased to India for the last rites.
The External Affairs Minister assured Amarinder Singh that the Indian government was making arrangements to bring the last remains in coffins with due respect being accorded to the deceased, a statement by the state government said.
The Chief Minister told her that his government would make arrangements for the coffins to be delivered to the families of the victims for the final rites.
Amarinder Singh said he had already directed state government officials to personally visit the bereaved families to share the sad news.
In his letter to the Union Minister, the Chief Minister pointed out that 24 of the deceased hailed from Punjab.
While the state government had been providing a monthly assistance of Rs 20,000 to the bereaved families, he said he would be grateful if the Centre could also give them due assistance in view of the extra-ordinary circumstances surrounding the matter.
Expressing grief at the news, the Chief Minister said it had come as a shock to the families and to everyone else in Punjab, as they had been hoping and praying for the well-being of the hostages, who had been abducted by the ISIS in 2014.
Amarinder Singh earlier told reporters outside the state assembly here that the deaths of the 39 hostages should have been confirmed by the central government immediately after the lone survivor revealed that the remaining had been taken hostage.
The families had been living under a pall of uncertainty all these years, which would naturally have aggravated their miseries manifold, he added.