'Operation Jeevan Sangharsh'
Sharad Pawar donates 15 truckloads of medicines for first humanitarian delegation to Iraq

Mr. Arshad Siddiqui, chairman of RCSI, will leave for Iraq with a team of 15 doctors. The first Indian humanitarian mission in Iraq, organised by the Red Crescent Society of India (RCSI), will leave for the war-torn zones by a special flight in a couple of days time.

The mission termed 'Operation Jeevan Sangharsh', the first from any part of the world heading for Iraqi soil, is led by Mr. Arshad Siddiqui, chairman of RCSI, and includes a team of around 12-15 doctors besides celebrities like producer-director Mahesh Bhatt, actor Raj Babbar and singer Lucky Ali. The date of their departure has not yet been fixed but it would be anytime between April 6-8.

Mr. Siddiqui informed that the team would be carrying along around 15 truckloads of assorted medicines (as per a requisitioned list) which have been donated by Nationalist Congress Party president, Mr. Sharad Pawar. The stocks of medicines would arrive at the RSCI's godowns at Dongri in a day's time, he said.

Unlike teams from the US and UK who are awaiting clearance by the Iraqi authorities, the Indian team has been invited by the Iraqi government and they would be officially received at the Damascus airport, he said. While Mr. Bhatt and Mr. Babbar are going as goodwill ambassadors carrying the message of peace, Lucky Ali will be going with an intention of staging musical concerts to cheer up the Iraqis, he added.

The RSCI plans to set up an office at Baghdad for providing aid and information to the Iraqis, Mr. Siddiqui said adding that this would be the first of a series of batches of delegates who would be camping in Iraq as part of the humanitarian mission.

He, however, informed that despite clearance from the Iraqi government, the society has yet to be granted a special flight by Air-India for the mission. Mr. Siddiqui said met civil aviation minister, Mr. Shahnawaz Hussain, and held lengthy discussions with him during his recent visit to Mumbai. While Mr. Hussain has assured to provide a special flight for the mission, the society is keeping its options open and would charte a flight if the need arises, he disclosed.

The team of doctors include specialists, orthopaedic surgeons, general practitioners, child specialists, etc. Two lady doctors have also offered to be part of the mission, this includes Dr. Indira Tiwari who is grand daughter of former Uttar Pradesh chief minister, late Kamlapati Tripathi.

The other doctors who have confirmed their participation include Dr. Azimuddin (gen. physician), Dr. Mohtasin (child specialist), Dr. Reshamwalla (gen. surgeon), Dr. Shamim Khan (M.D.), Dr. G. M. Khan (neuro-surgeon), Dr. (capt.) Rehman (gen. surgeon), Dr. Ismail (gen. physician), Dr. Joshi (Orthopaedic surgeon), all of whom have pledged their full support for the cause and are ready to face any hardship in the mission.

Mr. Siddiqui also called on people to support the Indian mission in Iraq by donating cash or kind besides offering their good wishes. During the Gujarat earthquake, the society has similarly conducted a humanitarian mission called Jeevan Sangharsh which was sustained for 6-7 months, he informed.