Thiruvananthapuram: The grit and determination of the 46 nurses helped in their evacuation from Iraq, said Chief Minister Oommen Chandy as he called for providing higher education and jobs in the state so that there is no need to go abroad.
"I am a strong believer in god and in prayers. I owe this rescue to the prayers offered by the lakhs of people and the grit and determination of these 46 nurses," said Chandy amidst thumping of desks in the Kerala assembly.
A special Air India aircraft carrying 183 people, including these 45 nurses from Kerala and one hailing from Tuticorin, took off from Erbil airport in troubled northern Iraq and touched down at the Cochin airport Sunday noon.
Chandy said that many Keralites are still left in Iraq and all those who wish to return would be brought back.
He emphasised that the efforts of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, her officials and Indian Ambassador in Iraq Ajay Kumar were a huge help in the evacuation of the nurses.
"I was in constant touch with these 46 nurses and I could hear their cries when they were told to board the bus from Tikrit to Mosul (Friday). I am deeply thankful to all those who played a role in this evacuation...Since Malayalees are there all over the world, it has its impact in Kerala. Look what happened in Kuwait (1990) and very recently in Ukraine when 400 students had to be brought back," said Chandy.
The chief minister added: "The time has come for all of us to think and to work out what we can do."
"Is it really essential for our students to go abroad for higher education or for jobs? Don't you think that we can easily provide all these in our state itself as we are fully equipped for it? We all should work for this to become a reality," said Chandy. It was greeted by a huge applause from the treasury benches.
Leader of Opposition V.S. Achuthanandan, on his part, said: "There is another side to this and we should not forget that if not for (late Iraqi leader) Saddam Hussein's men (in Tikrit) who showed these nurses a lot of empathy, this would not have happened."
"These nurses themselves said not even once did these armed men give them any meaningful looks. But the general impression that came here was... these armed men were picturised as terrorists. We should not forget that Hussein's men protected these nurses," said Achuthanandan.
It must be recalled that when Hussein's execution was announced in 2006, Kerala observed a half-day shutdown to protest the US highhandedness.
Chandy told the assembly that a meeting has been called Friday at which all the 46 nurses will be invited.
Also participating will be a good number of business groups who have already announced that they would provide jobs to these nurses either in India or abroad.
The chief minister said, "These nurses are understood to have taken loans to pay recruitment fees".
"In the meeting all these issues would be discussed with all concerned and after taking all the benefits that have been offered, if there is any shortfall, the state government will also chip in," he added.