Chandigarh: Family members of six Indian sailors, held captive by Somali pirates for over seven months, on Sunday urged the Central government to intervene and to ensure their safe release.
The six Indians were among the 22 crew members of Egyptian cargo vessel MV Suez, hijacked by pirates in the Gulf of Aden on August 2, 2010.
"We want Indian government to put pressure on the Egyptian owners of the vessel to seriously negotiate the release of the officers and other crew members. We are really worried about their safety," Sampa Arya, wife of third officer Ravinder Singh Gulia, one of the hostages, told reporters here.
According to the Merchant Navy Officers Association (MNOA), the pirates have demanded a ransom of the USD 4 million and have given a deadline of seven days for payment.
"We have got reports that Somali pirates are harassing the hostages both physically and mentally. One can imagine their plight and that of their families," said MNOA president Ajit Singh.
"The way the entire issue is being handled gives the impression that the Central government is being bogged down by red-tapism and no serious effort is being made to tackle the issue head on. We demand an immediate response from the centre."
Singh said that India should increase its naval strength in the area to safeguard the sea lanes and to ensure smooth passage of merchant vessels.
Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda had also sought the intervention of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to get six Indian hostages (two from Haryana) released from Somali pirates.
The Ansar Burney Trust, which is run by Pakistan`s former human rights minister Ansar Burney, is also working to ensure the safe release of the Indian and Pakistani hostages.
Burney is in contact with the pirates and is trying to convince them to free the crew members on humanitarian grounds.