Fake passport holds up body in Saudi Arabia
Darjeeling, Nov. 21: The death of a young Panthabari woman in Saudi Arabia has brought to fore the existence of a racket that sends people from the Darjeeling hills to Arab countries on fake Nepali passports.
Anu Darzi, a mother of three in her late twenties, had died in the oil-rich Kingdom eight months ago. But her body couldn’t be brought home as she had gone to Saudi Arabia on a fake Nepali passport.
In Saudi Arabia, Darzi was known by the name Ratna Kumari Chand, a resident of Dailekh in Nepal. “She was sent to Saudi Arabia on a Nepal passport. The photograph on the passport was hers, but the name and the address were those of Ratna Kumari Chand. There is a spurt in the use of fake passports by agents who send people abroad,” said Rangu Shouria, the chairperson of the Siliguri-based Kanchenjungha Uddhar Kendra.
Shouria was speaking at a seminar on human trafficking here on Friday. The conference was organised by Mankind in Action for Rural Growth (MARG) and the Goa-based Anyay Rahit Zindagi.
“Darzi was from Panthabari near Mirik. Her husband Bijay Mazumdar, who breaks stone on the riverbed in the Tarabari-Panthabari belt, was told in March this year by an unknown person that his wife had died in Saudi Arabia. However, we have not been able to get her body till date. We got to hear that she had probably been murdered on the night of February 28,” said Milan Chhetri with the Kendra.
The Siliguri-based organisation has not been able to help much as officially Darzi was not an Indian citizen in the eyes of the Saudi officials.
“We even went to Nepal and with the help of an NGO, Maiti Nepal, met government officials there. The problem lies in the fact that one Ratna Kumari Chand is alive in Dailekh. Her husband Bhim Bahadur Chand is also alive. Darzi’s husband had been mentioned as Bhim Bahadur Chand in the passport. For obvious reasons, the Saudi authorities wouldn’t send the body to India,” said Chhetri.
Darzi’s family in India hasn’t been able to do much. “The husband has lodged an FIR with Darjeeling police but Darzi’s agent Vikram Rai, who stays at Panitanki (a border town along the Indo-Nepal border near Kakarivitta ) is untraceable,” said Chhetri.
The Kanchenjungha Uddhar Kendra simply hopes that Darzi’s body will be handed over to her family members.
The incident has highlighted how the use of fake Nepalese passport is rampant. “Actually, a group of around 12 people had gone abroad using fake passports. One of them managed to come back seven days ago but the rest are still untraceable,” said Shouria.
People in the hills are assured of a passport and visa free of cost by the agents. The people who dream of a decent living in the Arab countries are also given anything between Rs10,000 and Rs 20,000 before they fly abroad from Nepal.
“The victims are told that the amount would be deducted from their salaries once they get jobs abroad. They do not get any help if they land in trouble, as the passports are bogus. People must stop thinking that just because someone managed to go and return home using such passports, everything is fine,” said Shouria.
Nirnay John Chhetri of MARG said a lot of people from the hills were being trafficked. “Since there is only one rehabilitation home for the three districts of Darjeeling, Jalpaiguri and Cooch Behar in Cooch Behar, we are facing a lot of problems in arranging accommodation for the rescued people.”
The case was handed over to the CID on August 25, an officer of the Mirik police station said. Ratnakumari Chand was the name mentioned in the FIR. Darjeeling police superintendent, Anant Kumar, said the police had come across such cases. “We have sent a report to the CID on fake passport rackets and also on this particular case. We are keeping a watch on the situation,” Kumar said.