The Thugs of Punjab: Abduction, murder, forgery – you name it, they have done it

Travel agents have duped over 90,000 persons of Rs 17,000 crore in the past 30 months

Jalandhar: For reasons best known to them, Punjabis are desperate to fly abroad to earn their living. And they are willing to do anything and everything to fulfil their dream. Every year about 2.25 lakh people in the state seek to go abroad, but only 48,000 are able to enter the countries of their choice through legal means. Other fall prey to unscrupulous travel agents.

92K duped in 30 months

Over the past 30 months (January 2016 to June 2018), nearly 92,000 residents of the state were duped of about Rs 17,480 crore by unscrupulous travel agents. Around 20,000 travel agents are running their businesses in the state and most of them are thugs. Between Rs 15 to 35 lakh are charged from a person for sending him to countries like Australia, USA, Canada, England and other European countries.

These findings are based on an indepth research done by a Bhaskar team, convering study reports of four national and international agencies and 1,200 FIRs registered at 220 police stations.

Investigations by Bhaskar revealed that many people themselves approach the agents and are ready to go abroad through means that may be legal or illegal.

Sent on tourist visa

Sometimes fake agents send their clients abroad on tourist instead of work visa and therefore they are not allowed to work and earn in the foreign country.

Less educated easy prey

The study revealed that nearly half (48 per cent) of the victims were less educated and ruralites. Police receive nearly 20,000 complaints of this nature every month. And this represents only 20 per cent of the total cases. Others continue to make rounds of the agents in the hope that one day they would be able to go abroad.

Middlemen scout for potential clients

The big fishes have middlemen. These middlemen keep an eye on youngsters and college students desirous of going abroad and collect data from educational and coaching institutions. Those appearing IELTS are considered to be potential clients.

To impress the clients, the agents claim they have head offices in cities like Mumbai, Delhi or Bengaluru. As soon as the deal is finalised Rs 10 to 15 lakh is taken as advance to prepare documents.

Man sent to Russia instead of US; committed suicide

My father Jarnail Singh was a farmer. In 2014, my brother Rajan opened a shop in Jalandhar and started selling pagaris. About three years back, Rajan said he wanted to go to America. An agent used to come to his shop. Rajan gave him Rs 10 lakh. Our father sold his truck and another Rs 3.40 lakh were given to the travel agent. About three months back, the agent sent him to Russia instead of America. A few days before the expiry of his visa, Rajan returned to India. He went to meet the travel agent. After comingback, he committed suicide by hanging. (As told by Malkiyat Singh)

Canada is in Bengaluru

I belong to Bodhni village of district Hoshiarpur. I wanted to send my son Rupinder Singh abroad. I met Daulatpur resident Jaswinder. He said he would send Rupinder to Canada. I believed him. Jaswinder Singh called me to Patiala where I met Kulwinder Singh and Manpreet Kaur. They took Rs 2 lakh advance and said balance Rs 25 lakh is payable once Rupinder reaches Canada. They sent Rupinder to Bengaluru with another youth and said the flight would depart for Canada on 15 December 2017. But in Bengaluru the goons of the agent abducted them and took them to an unknown house and held them hostage. They brutally thrashed my son and killed the youth accompanying him. At gunpoint they asked my son to call home and tell that he had reached Canada and pay the balance Rs 25 lakh to the agent. We paid the money. My son somehow escaped from their clutches and then we learnt what had happened. (As told by Paramjeet Singh)


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