Monday, March 10, 2014

A Lecturer, a Family and a Nonprofit Worker: The Indians Aboard Missing Malaysian Flight

There were five Indians and one Canadian of Indian origin aboard the Malaysia Airlines jet that disappeared over the weekend.

India’s Foreign Ministry said Sunday that its diplomats in Malaysia, China and North Korea had been in touch with relatives of the missing Indians from flight MH370 between Kuala Lumpur and Beijing.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those on that flight and we fervently pray for those passengers,” a statement on the Ministry of External Affairs website said.

“We appreciate the efforts of the Government of Malaysia to locate the missing aircraft,” it added.

The full list of 227 passengers is here.

Muktesh Mukherjee, 42, a Canadian of Indian origin had been on vacation with his wife Xiaomo Bai in Vietnam before boarding the Malaysian Airlines jet, according to a report on CBC News based in Montreal.

Mr. Mukherjee is a China-based vice-president for Xcoal Energy & Resources, a U.S.-based supplier of hard coking coal.

Reports from the Indian press Monday said that Mr. Mukherjee is the grandson of a senior member of the cabinet when Indira Gandhi ruled India in the 1970s. Mohan Kumaramangalam, Mrs. Gandhi’s steel minister was killed in an airplane crash in 1973.

It was not immediately possible to confirm the reports.

Kranti Shirsath, 44, a former chemistry lecturer from Pune in western India, was traveling to North Korea to visit her husband, according to her brother Ashok Hunge.

Ms. Shirsath, who has two sons, was supposed to go to North Korea from Beijing, Mr. Hunge told The Wall Street Journal. Her husband has been working abroad at a nonprofit for many years and his contract in North Korea is supposed to end on April 6, Mr. Hunge added. The couple had planned to come back to Mumbai when the contract expired.

“We are praying to god. I am still hoping that she might be alive,” said Mr. Hunge. He described his sister as “very brilliant.”

Rahul Shirsath, one of Ms. Kranti’s two sons, was quoted as saying in The Indian Express newspaper, that his mother had called him on Friday as she was boarding the flight. “She told me to take care… that was the last time we spoke,” Mr. Shirsath was quoted as saying.

Ms. Kranti lectured at Eklavya Shikshan Sanstha’s Polytechnic College in Pune until three or four years ago, said Amrut Pisal, the principal of the college. “I worked with her personally before she left to become a housewife,” Mr. Pisal told the Journal on Monday.

Chandrika Sharma, 51, an executive secretary at the International Collective in Support of Fishworkers, a Chennai-based nonprofit, was on her way from Chennai to a conference of the Food and Agriculture Organisation in Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia via Beijing when the plane went missing.

“Her family is in deep shock. They hope she will come back soon,” said N. Venugopal who works as a consultant at the ICSF and said he had been a colleague of Ms. Sharma’s since 2002.

A statement on the ICSF website said that Ms. Sharma, who is originally from Haryana, is married to K.S. Narendran and the couple have an 18-year-old daughter studying at Ambedkar University in New Delhi.

Ms. Sharma has been involved with the fisheries nonprofit for 12 years, the statement said. She has worked on projects to help secure the tenure rights of fishing communities.

Vinod Kolekar, 55, and his wife, Chetana Kolekar, 55, from Mumbai were on their way to Beijing to visit their son Samved, a report in the Indian Express said. Their younger son Swanand Kolekar, 23, was accompanying them on the trip.

The Mumbai Mirror reported that Samved was waiting to receive them at Beijing’s airport when the news that the plane had gone missing came through.

According to The Indian Express, neighbors of the Kolekar family reported that they had not been able to get a flight direct from Mumbai to Beijing so had decided to fly via Kuala Lumpur. The report added that Vinod Kolekar worked as an engineer with Mahindra & Mahindra until taking voluntary retirement a few years ago.

Follow India Real Time on Twitter @WSJIndia.

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