Travel agents lack permit

Unscrupulous firms send Punjab youngsters abroad

Behind the crisis gripping Indians – nearly 660 from Punjab and Haryana alone – trapped in strife-torn Iraq, lies the flourishing trade of deceitful travel agents and immigration firms in Punjab that promise the moon to youth hooked to dollar dreams.

Non-Resident Indian dominated Doaba region in Punjab is dubbed as the epicenter of many such dodgy activities. An estimated 6,000 immigration firms and travel agents operate in this region.

Yet, what is worrisome is that despite the Punjab government making it mandatory to obtain a valid licence under the Act, only 48 of these have applied for a licence to operate.
Bulks of complaints with the police of immigration frauds and other such cases have been reported from this region. One of the six boys who returned from Erbil in Iraq on Sunday brought to fore the rot that exists.

On his return, Shamsher Singh of Salo Chahal village in Batala in Punjab said his travel agent promised him everything – from a salary of 1200 dollars a month to better amenities to live. What many like him got was a meager salary of 400 dollars and pathetic work and living conditions.

Many youth are lured with promises of jobs in Dubai and Kuwait but often land up in Iraq. Those few who returned to their home town in Punjab on Sunday, said it took them 40 hours from Erbil to Delhi with several halts at airports. 

The Punjab government made it mandatory for travel agents and immigration firms to obtain a licence under the Punjab Travel Regulation Act. The deadline to obtain a licence has been extended six times since last September.
At least 28 Punjabis hailing from Kapurthala district of Punjab are reportedly stuck in Iraq ever since the crisis broke. According to sources not a single travel agent has applied for registration from this area.   
Rough estimates suggest that the Doaba region has about six million of its people are settled abroad. The region flaunts palatial houses and farmhouses.
Fancy gigantic water tanks on roofs of houses, many of them in the shape of a huge aircrafts, are exhibits of an NRI address the region.
The craving for dollar dreams among Punjab youth is so much that there is a Sikh shrine near Jalandhar in Punjab where miniature models of aircrafts are offered as ‘prasad’ while paying obeisance.
It is widely believed that offering an aircraft model grants one his wish of settling abroad or at least gets him a foreign visa.
The Punjab government has submitted a list of 514 people from the state who are stuck in Iraq.
There are 147 youth from neighbouring Haryana stranded in Iraq. The problem also lies in the ‘desperation’ with Punjab youth to settle abroad, at any cost, at times by using fair or foul means in connivance with travel agents.

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