The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Son dials, but appa doesn’t answer

Hyderabad, April 30: The telecom engineer’s child was impatiently dialling daddy’s number.

0093799777600' he kept punching in' 0093799777600.

“Why is appa not answering' He always responds within two rings,” Satyateja asked his grandmother. Getting no answer, he returned to pressing the buttons on the mobile phone, a frown betraying his perplexity as Anantalakshmi, 58, hugged her grandson and wept.

Through the morning, K. Suryanarayana’s entire family had clung to the desperate hope that the body found in Kandahar might just prove to be somebody else’s.

But when chief minister Y.S.R. Reddy’s convoy ground to a halt before the house in Malkajgiri, Secunderabad, around 1.30 in the afternoon, there could be no more turning away from reality.

Widow Manjula, 36, sat clasping a portrait of her husband, occasionally wiping it with a wet cloth. Her daughters Anisha and Manisha, students of classes IX and V, stayed close to her.

For a brief moment, Anantalakshmi’s eyes flared. “They (the Taliban) have no human feelings, they are cannibals. God will punish them one day,” she cried out.

The slain engineer’s father, K. Chandrasekhar, seemed the calmest person in the house.

“My son spoke to me on Wednesday. He said he would return by the end of May as he and his team had completed the job a month ahead of schedule,” the former deputy tehsildar said.

“When he was here for Ugadi (the Telugu new year) a month ago, he said he was expecting a bonus for finishing early,” Manjula added.

The 41-year-old Suryanarayana was working for the Bahrain-based firm Al Moayed in a project for Afghan mobile service provider Roshan Telecom. He was in Afghanistan on a six-month contract.

“He went there because he couldn’t find a suitable job after he left Tata Teleservices, where he had worked for 10 years,” Chandrasekhar explained.

Was he worried about the security' “He assured me the company and the Afghan government provided enough protection. Only then I let him go.”

But G.K. Madhu, a telecom engineer who had worked with Suryanarayana in Bahrain last year and had returned in February, suggested the security was discriminatory.

“Indians are not protected well in Afghanistan, not on a par with the Italians or Japanese working there,” he said without elaborating.

Initially there was apprehension that the family may not be paid the Rs 25-lakh insurance when Al Moayed informed Indian officials that Suryanarayana had flouted security norms.

“It appears he had gone out of the security cordon with just his driver and not the armed escort as required,” said Bala Bhaskar, regional passport officer in Hyderabad.

But the company later agreed not only to hand the insurance amount but an additional Rs 20 lakh as compensation. The Centre will give Rs 5 lakh and the chief minister, who cancelled a joint news conference with the Union finance minister to rush to meet the family, announced another Rs 5 lakh and a job for Manjula.

The body is likely to arrive in Hyderabad tomorrow.

Appa had promised me a new mobile and I had asked him for Motorola’s latest model,” Anisha said between sobs. “I don’t want anything, I just want him back with us.”

Suryanarayana is the third worker from Andhra to be kidnapped in Afghanistan.

Nellore residents Murali and Varadayya, however, had been released unharmed after 20 days in captivity and are still working in that country.

State labour minister G. Vinod said nearly 200 skilled and unskilled workers from Andhra were working in Afghanistan.

“Most of the Indian companies that have contracts to build roads, bridges, telecom networks and houses in Afghanistan are from Andhra; so they hire so many workers from this state.”

The state government has floated a company, Overseas Manpower Company of AP (Omcap), to help workers to find jobs abroad.

“Last year, we sent nearly 300 people to West Asia including 50 to Afghanistan,” the minister said. “The high salaries and insurance cover and the short duration of contracts attract workers to Afghanistan.”

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