Baba Bakala (Amritsar), August 10: Assuring support and cooperation to distressed families of youth from Punjab stuck in strife-torn Iraq, Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal today said the state government was constantly in touch with the Centre to ensure their safe return. Interacting with a delegation of family members of such youth, who met him at the sidelines of a function here today, Badal said he was personally in touch with the Union government and the officers of Ministry of External Affairs to ensure safe and prompt return of every Punjabi stuck in Iraq.

Expressing satisfaction over the efforts made by the Centre in this regard, he exhorted the distressed families to have faith on the Union government, which he said “was not leaving any stone unturned for safely evacuating every single Indian from Iraq.” Badal also assured them that on its part the state was making strenuous efforts to expedite the process for release of next of their kin, who were trapped in Iraq.

The Chief Minister further said he had been regularly taking up the matter with the External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, who had informed him that the Centre was exploiting all the diplomatic channels for ensuring the early release of all the Punjabis trapped in Iraq. “The Union government has assured that it would make sure that every Indian returns to his home safely irrespective of the fact that whether he/she possesses the relevant immigration documents or not,” he said.

On the delegation’s request regarding financial assistance to them, the Chief Minister said he has directed the Deputy Commissioner Amritsar to immediately release the pending assistance to these families. Earlier, Badal had announced to grant financial assistance of Rs 20,000 per month to the distressed families of 40 Punjabis stuck up in Mosul town in Iraq in order to bail them out from the financial stringency in these difficult times. Badal, while addressing the public at the function

earlier, said the issue of management of gurdwaras was close to the heart and soul of every Sikh. With neighbouring Haryana government enacting a law paving way for a separate SGPC to manage the affairs of the gurudwaras in that state, Badal said “the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) is duty bound to thwart every attempt to take over the control of our revered shrines in Haryana.” “Realising well that the gurdwaras were the chief source of temporal and spiritual power of the Sikhs, the Congress and its agents were trying to wrest their control.

“However, these attempts of the Congress and its stooges will never turn into a reality because every Sikh is aware of their dubious track record,” he alleged. He said Congress’ “deliberate attempt” to weaken SAD, Amritsar-based Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) and even Sri Akal Takht Sahib was intolerable. Further attacking the Congress, the 86-year-old Chief Minister said its policy of “excessive centralisation of powers has ruined the country in every field.”

“However, under the dynamic, progressive and visionary leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the country would soon reach the pinnacle of its glory. I hope that the Prime Minister would steer the country on the path of progress and development by overcoming all the hurdles. It may take some time, but the day is not far away when Modi will restore the pristine glory of country by overcoming the current crisis faced by the nation,” he added.

Later, interacting with the media persons, the Chief Minister said that it was too early to assess the performance of the Union government, adding that the Modi dispensation must be given some time to perform. “Punjab would immensely benefit under the current regime of the NDA government,” he said.