Chandigarh: Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal today urged Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to make use of all diplomatic channels for securing the release of the 35 Indian crew members of the vessel ‘MV Desh Shanti' who have been in the custody of Iranian authorities since Aug. 12.
In two separate letters to the PM and External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid, Badal impressed upon them the need for expediting the release of the vessel along with its crew and captain, SS Cheema, who hails from Mohali.
An official spokesman said here that the Merchant Navy Officers' Association led by Capt. Lalit Chander Dharmani along with Neena Cheema, the wife of Capt. Cheema, called on Badal here this evening to apprise him about the matter and seek his support for the release of the crew members. They informed Badal that “the crew members have been arrested on the grounds that the ship had allegedly polluted Iranian waters”.
The crew on board are feeling threatened with their ordeal having lasted 18 days now. Hygiene on their vessel, too, was a matter of concern, Badal was told.
Cheema reportedly told his wife over the telephone that his vessel was in no way responsible for any pollution and had not committed any irregularities.
The Shipping Corporation of India owned MV Desh Shanti was carrying crude oil from Basrah in Iraq when it was detained by Iranian authorities and taken to Bandar Abbas port on the grounds that it had polluted their seas.