In a heart-wrenching development, five Indian sailors — stranded in Iran for 18 months — have appealed for help to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Minister for External Affairs S. Jaishankar, to return home.
Harbouring dreams of a better future for themselves, the five youngsters — all holding valid qualifications and documents — had flown to Iran to join merchant navy ships in 2019, through an Indian agent.
They are: Aniket S. Yenpure, 29 and Mandar M. Worlikar, 26, (both Mumbai), Pranav A. Tiwari, 21, (Patna), Naveen M. Singh (New Delhi), and Thamizh R. Selvan, 31, (Chennai).
However, while sailing on the high seas off Oman in February 2020, the five were unknowingly trapped in a treacherous maritime narcotics smuggling racket, leading to their arrest, jail and even after being acquitted in the case, they are still grounded in a foreign land for 18 months.
In India, their frantic family members have written several letters to the Prime Minister, Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), the Iranian authorities there and in India, the Indian diplomats stationed in Iran for intervention, but to no avail.
“As events unfolded after February 2020, little did these boys realize that not only their dreams would be shattered, but they would also be imprisoned and kept away from their families in India,” rued Aniket’s distraught father in Mumbai, Sham Yenpure.
From mid-2019, all the excited youngsters — on their maiden sea-jobs — were doing their duties enthusiastically till one ‘black voyage’ in February 2020 on a ship, ‘MV Artin10’, owned by an Iranian, Razaee Mukkadam which literally changed the course of their lives.
The ship’s master, Capt. M. Rasool Gharebi took them on board for a series of long voyages lasting around 6-7 weeks, sailing from Iran to Kuwait, Muscat (Oman) and other ports, delivering different types of cargo.
“On the afternoon of February 20, 2020, Capt. Gharebi suddenly ordered the ship to stop in the high seas and drop anchor, around 140 kms from Muscat. A few hours later, another vessel came and unloaded what appeared to be small ‘rice-bags’ on our ship,” Aniket Yenpure told IANS from an unknown location around Chabahar.
Since this mid-sea cargo transfer was illegal as per international maritime laws, Worlikar and his co-crew quietly recorded it on their mobile phones — as evidence for the Customs and Iran Police authorities at the next port.
Unexpectedly, the very next morning (February 21, 2020), an Iran Navy ship intercepted and arrested them all on the high seas and transferred them to the naval ship.
During interrogation, Capt. Gharebi admitted that “the Indian crewmen were innocent and had no knowledge of the illicit cargo transfer operation” which he master-minded in the high seas.
At one point, the Captain attempted suicide by stabbing himself, but since the navy ship was near the small Konarak Port, rushed to hospital and survived.
The five Indians were also offloaded at the same port town, arrested by the local Counter-Narcotics Department, and shunted to custody by a Konarak Court. Even Capt. Gharebi and later the ship owner Mukkadam were nabbed in the same case.
“We felt doomed and helpless…It was only at this stage we learnt that the ‘rice-bags’ loaded on our ship in the high seas actually was 1.50 tonnes of banned narcotics being smuggled through the sea,” said Aniket, as they prepared to spend the next 382 days in jail — without committing any crime!
Their case was subsequently transferred from Konarak Court to the Chabahar Court which found them innocent on March 8, 2021 and ordered their immediate release.
When they went to collect their passports and other documents, the CounterNarcotics Department in Konarak re-arrested them and produced them before the Konarak Court.
The Konarak Court also ordered their forthwith release as per the Chabahar Court ruling, but withheld their travel and other documents — effectively leaving the five youngsters high and dry there since March 10, 2021.
“In April, we were informed that the Konarak Court had raised certain objections to the Chabahar Court verdict and the matter was transferred to the Supreme Court of Iran. After two months, in end-June 2021, the Iran apex court struck down the Chabahar Court judgment. We have no clue of what lies ahead,” Aniket Yenpure said in a shaken voice.
Now, the Mumbai boys’ families plan to meet Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and Tourism Minister Aditya Thackeray seeking their good offices with the Centre to help release the two ‘Marathi’ lads, said Sham Yenpure.
Punjabi singer Moosewala joins Congress
Famous Punjabi singer Sidhu Moosewala, who was booked on charges of promoting violence and gun culture in a song, on Friday joined the Congress ahead of the Assembly polls in Punjab.
He joined the party in the presence of Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi and State Congress president Navjot Singh Sidhu.
During the induction ceremony, Sidhu described Moosewala as a youth icon.
“Sidhu Moosewala is joining our family. I welcome him in the Congress fold,” Sidhu told the media.
Describing Moosewala as a “big artiste”, Channi said with his sheer hard work, he has won the hearts of millions of people.
Moosewala, whose real name is Shubhdeep Singh Sidhu, is known for his hit Punjabi tracks like ‘Legend’, ‘Devil’, ‘Just listen’, ‘Jatt da Muqabala’ and ‘Hathyar’, among many others.
His name also featured in the Billboard Canadian Albums in 2018.
“I am not entering politics for status or to earn praise. I want to become a part of the system to transform it. I am joining the Congress to raise the voice of the people. I am joining the Congress as the party has leaders who have come from common families,” Moosewala said.
He said he is still living in the same house in his village. His father is an ex-serviceman and his mother is a sarpanch. “Residents of my area have expectations from me,” he added.
‘MLA not a govt servant’, Kerala HC cancels appointment of late leader’s son
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. (File Photo: IANS)
In a stinging blow to Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, who had given a government job to the son of late CPI-M MLA K.K. Ramachandran Nair, the Kerala High Court on Friday ruled that a ‘legislator is not a government servant’ and cancelled the appointment.
Nair, a first time legislator after being elected from the Chenganoor Assembly constituency in the 2016 Assembly polls, passed away in 2018 following health issues.
Vijayan, in a surprise decision, decided to appoint Nair’s son R.Prasanth as an assistant engineer in the Public Works Department, which led to a huge criticism from several quarters.
However, a petitioner from Palakkad, Ashok Kumar filed a plea in this regard at the High Court and on Friday a division bench chaired by the Chief Justice S. Manikumar ruled that an ‘MLA is not a government servant as they have an elected term of only five years, and hence a government job under the dying in harness mode is not applicable and cancelled the appointment.
Incidentally, this judgement comes at a time when a petition is before the Lokayukta after Vijayan sanctioned a substantial sum of money from the Chief Minister’s Distress Relief Fund to clear off the debts of Nair.
SP’s ‘Vijay Rath Yatra’ in Jhansi, Akhilesh to address public rallies at 9 places
Former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister and SP chief Akhilesh Yadav is taking out a ‘Vijay Rath Yatra’ in Jhansi on Friday, with the focus on Bundelkhand and will also hold public rallies at nine places.
As per information, the yatra will traverse through Laxmi Garden, Elite Square, Jail Square, Court Square, Kunj Vatika Marriage Hall, Mandi Tiraha, University Gate, Medical College Gate, Medical Bypass Tiraha, where he will be welcomed by the party workers.
After this, he will address public gatherings at Mahant Laxman Das Kanya Inter College in Baragaon, Rashtrakavi Maithilisharan Gupt Mahavidyalaya in Chirgaon and Tika Ram Kanya Mahavidyalaya.
Earlier, in Lalitpur, Akhilesh accused the BJP of “fooling” the people. He raised the farmers’ issue and said that only a family man can understand the pain of a family member.
In Bundelkhand, Hamirpur, Mahoba, Banda and Chitrakoot comprise a division (mandal). Jhansi, Lalitpur, Jalon is another division. There are seven districts and 19 Assembly seats in the area.
For Akhilesh, Bundelkhand remains a major challenge because the BJP has a strong hold in the area and it had won all the 19 Assembly seats in the region.
In the 2019 Assembly elections, the BJP wiped out the SP, BSP and Congress in the region.
The SP is busy in stitching together alliances with small parties to give a tough fight to the saffron party.
On October 13, Akhilesh had launched his ‘Vijay Rath Yatra’ as part of the 2022 UP Assembly election campaign.
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