Punjab Sees Growing Human Trafficking Rings
The unabated wheeling and dealing with human lives to settle them abroad is taking shape in the form of organized crime with billions of dollars at stake and unspecified laws of the land providing a them with a level playing field. The mirage of a better future in foreign lands despite the uncertainties is becoming the fancy of many youth at this place of plenty called Punjab. Ever increasing fly-by-night travel agents are benefiting from this trend.Taking a cue from lopsided government policies and immediate monetary gains, big time politicians to religious preachers, artists and athletes are indulging in this lucrative racket of human trafficking. Shrinking job avenues for young lower- and middle-income households along with the craze for a life full of green pastures are flourishing this illegal trade. The numerous tales full of woes regularly found in the media well pronounces the pliable youngsters fading into obscurity, but it is to no avail as more and more are complying. The registered cases of fraud are just the tip of the iceberg as many go unreported.
The open display of wealth and affluence by Westerners attracts not only gullible young people, but highly skilled professionals also go a long way to vie for the chance to flee, ever ready to part with their valuables. Not only illiterate unskilled and skilled workers, but a substantial percentage of educated youth are becoming victims of this smuggling knowing well the consequences. Rural Punjabi youth are selling their land holdings to go abroad, while city youth are seeking easy money from private banks.Though there is not an authentic report or study to reveal the value of this trade, unconfirmed figures put the immigration cartel at several billion dollars a year, most of it being pocketed by overseas agents, as well as travel agents in India.
The soliciting of clients by luring them for jobs overseas is major tool used by these cartels. In the absence of any specific laws to prohibit the practice, youngsters are becoming targets. The youth of Jalandhar, Kapurthala, Hoshiarpur and Nawashahar (districts of Punjab) are leading the pack to usher in Western shores and now even the Malwa youth are not wanting to play a second fiddle to their affluent brethren.The thought of living in a Western country is so engraved in the minds of Punjabis that they do not even shy away from exploring the not so desirable routes to reach their favored destinations. In the process, some end up in jail or dead, as in the case of the Malta tragedy that has haunted hundreds of Punjab families for more than a decade.The figures of youth coming in the clutches of travel agents are astronomical with many illegal immigrants being deported. The Jalandhar regional passport office got 15,785 inquiries in 2000 about people held captive abroad. The figure rose to 21,571 in 2001, 24,398 in 2002, 21,156 in 2003 and 19,101 in 2004.
The situation is so grave that in the tiny district of Kapurthala 52 cases were registered in 2005 and 44 travel agents suspected of trafficking were nabbed by Punjab police. Agents have lost several billions of dollars as the result of these stings. Punjab police registered more than 500 cases against travel agents in 2005 with Jalandhar topping the list with 118 cases, followed by Kapurthala with 77 cases. Hoshiarpur had 58, Ludhiana 60, Patiala 38, Nawashahar 26, Amritsar 18 and Barnala 15 cases.Lok Bhalai Party president and former Labor Minister Balwant Singh Ramoowalia summed up the situation saying, “Rome is burning and Nero is playing his flute,” accusing the CM Amrinder and his predecessor Parkash Singh Badal of doing nothing to save Punjab from these activities.He says gangs of agents are plundering money with Punjab becoming the safest place for looting, but no one is coming forward to avoid this open loot. He says LBP is doing the yeoman service to rescue Punjabi youth from foreign jails and the mainline political party should follow suit.ADGP (CRIME) Punjab says the government is working on a proposal to register and properly license the travel agents, so that whenever any duping takes place, agents could be prosecuted by easily identifying the activity. He says the police have the view that the district DC and SSP should have the legal powers to arrest the agents and sentence them to severe punishments, only then the menace could be controlled to some extent.
2006-07-25 10:53 (KST)