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The Long Haul: Families in Punjab Await Bodies of Kin from Middle East

The Long Haul: Families in Punjab Await Bodies of Kin from Middle East

Almost four months have passed but Punjab still awaits the mortal remains of their near and dear ones, who perished in the Middle East.

Delhi: “He had gone there to make a living, to fund my education. My father had asked me to study well; he wanted me to become an officer,” a sobbing Sehajpreet recalls every last detail of the phone conversation she had with her father. Away in Saudi Arabia, Bhupinder Singh kept a close track on his daughter’s studies, and wanted her to become a government officer. He had gone to the Middle East on the lookout for a job.

A resident of Goindwal Sahib in the Tarn Taran district of Punjab, Bhupinder had gone to Dammam to work as a driver two months ago. On July 28, his elder brother Baljinder received a phone call saying Bhupinder had died of a heart attack. The Singh family had knocked on every door to get back his mortal remains. It finally took some political intervention to bring Bhupinder home in a coffin.

“My brother had gone there to work because of unemployment here. We had sent papers to Ludhiana, approached the government; but the government is of no use. No one helped us, until Bhagwant Mann spoke to people in Delhi,” says Baljinder.

“We die every day. Those who are left behind perish every single day. Until we see the remains, we do not believe the person is no more,” Bhupinder’s cousin Harbinder says.

Almost four months have passed but Punjab still awaits the mortal remains of their near and dear ones, who perished in the Middle East. While Bhupinder’s family got a closure, there are several others for whom the wait continues.

For Charanjeet Kaur — a 60-year-old resident of Ludhiana’s Rurka Kalan — the tears have not stopped in four months. She regrets the moment of maternal weakness, when she gave in to her son, Davinder Mangat’s plan of going to Riyadh to work as a driver. In one and a half years, Davinder sent home Rs 70,000, which the family used to settle their debts.

On April 25, 28-year-old Davinder died in Riyadh. The bereaved family sent emails to the External Affairs Ministry to bring back his mortal remains, but got no reply. His employer, too, did not respond.

“Nobody helps the poor,” Charanjeet says.

“We approached everyone, sent petitions. No one helped,” her husband says.

Davinder was to return home in November for his wedding. Today, a mother who would have welcomed home her son, just wants him to make his final journey home in a shroud.

first published:August 26, 2016, 15:18 IST