Kerala nurses, who’ve returned from Libya, have sharply contradicted the external affairs minister, Sushma Swaraj’s claims that Indian government had evacuated them from the strife-torn country.
Swaraj, who is currently undergoing treatment at AIIMS, was embroiled in a bitter twitter spat with the Kerala chief minister, Oommen Chandy, on Thursday over who should take the credit of evacuating the nurses from Libya.
Speaking to BBC Hindi, nurses appeared to have contradicted Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s claims that it was his government, who rescued the Indian nationals.
If anything, according to 29 nurses who arrived in Kerala on Thursday, the role of the Indian embassy was allegedly questionable.
The nurses said that they could return home safely only because of a Libyan national, Abdul Jabbar.
The nurses were stranded in the compound of Al-Zawiya hotel in Libya since 26 March after they lost one of their colleagues and her 18-month-old son in a rocket attack.
Contrary to claims by Modi, Swaraj and Chandy, it was Jabbar, who made arrangement for their safe accommodation and transportation to Tripoli airport.
Recalling their harrowing experiences, the nurses told BBC Hindi that the response from the people in the Indian embassy was ‘very cold.’ They also contradicted Modi’s claim, whereby he announced that the Indian government had ‘rescued’ them.
Nurse Pushpa said, ” Nobody came forward to rescue us there. If we are back home safe, it’s because of our own efforts and help from our colleagues. Abdul Jabbar had taken us to a hospital compound, where we remained safe.”
Mary, who hails from Tamil Nadu, said that she too was stranded with her husband in Libya adding that 11 small children were also with them.
Simi Jose, another nurse who arrived back home, said, “when the rocket hit our apartment, we had to immediately leave the compound. Jabbar took us to a place mear the sea. We expected help from the Indian embassy. But they told us ‘how can we help you? You buy your tickets and return home.'”
Jose added, “We were not even paid for seven months because there was no money in the banks to release our salaries. They only had 100 dinars to pay us. Indian embassy people only kept talking on the phone.”
Nithi Thomas said that Jabbar did not take rest even for a second for last one-and-half months. It was only he, who helped us. People from the Indian embassy would just phone us but they were pretty inactive.”
The first indication about theit return to India came when Modi during one of his election rallies in Kerala on Wednesday said, ” They were missing for few days and we were very bothered about their safety. But our government has managed to rescue them.”
Modi’s version was questioned by Chandy prompting Swaraj to post controversial tweets, which came for intense scrutiny on social media platforms.
The fight over credits has become intense because of the assembly elections in Kerala scheduled for this Monday. Clearly, both BJP and Congress are keen to extract the much-needed electoral mileage by crediting their respective government for the evacuation of 29 nurses.