APP state convenor and Sangrur MP Bhagwant Mann on Wednesday claimed to have brought back from Saudi Arabia 20 youths, including 15 hailing from Punjab, who were allegedly victims of human trafficking by unscrupulous travel agents.
Accusing the Punjab government of failing to act in cases of illegal human trafficking, Mann said he would take these youths to Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh and demand jobs for them under his government’s scheme of “har Ghar Vich Ik Captain,” which aims to provide one job to every household in the state. Presenting the 20 youths at a press conference here, Mann said his party would also raise the issue in the coming Monsoon Session of Parliament. Of the 20, two each are from Rajasthan and UP while one is from Haryana. The rest 15 are from Punjab.
While Mann appreciated the efforts of External Affair Minister Sushma Swaraj in the matter, he accused the Indian Embassy in Saudi of not listening to appeals for help from these boys. He said he learnt of their plight through videos sent by them and immediately contacted Sushma Swaraj’s office, after whose intervention the youths could be brought back safely on Sunday.
Charanjit Singh, in his mid-20s and hailing from Chabbewal in Hoshiarpur, said he had paid Rs 1.50 lakh to a travel agent of Chabbewal who took him along with other boys to Saudi three months back. “All had paid Rs 1.50 lakh each to various travel agents of their respective areas and were promised job in a poultry farm on a salary of around 1,700 Riyal (Rs 29,000-30,000) there,” he said. “We were taken taken there by Al-Watnia company’s officials. Once there, some of the youths were sent to other companies. We all were forced to sign documents showing our salary at 1100 Riyal,” he said, adding that despite their signatures, they were not given any work and threatened that if they wanted to go back, they should ask their parents to send Rs 1.50 lakh more.
“We were forced to live in highly unhygienic conditions and 26 of us were put in a small dingy room and given poor quality of food,” Charanjit said, adding that he had informed the Indian embassy in Saudi, which did not help. Another youth, Jaspal Singh, said their passports were taken away by the employer. “We managed to make a video and send it to our homes, asking our parents to send the same to Bhagwant Mann,” he said.
‘Bodies of 2 Punjabis lying unclaimed in Saudi for long’
The youths said bodies of two Punjabi boys had been lying in Saudi for 11 and sex months, respectively, but the government was not helping their poor parents. Around 2,000 Indians, mostly Punjabi youths, are also stranded there after being duped by travel agents, they said. Mann said he himself had helped bring around 20 bodies in the past few years and handed them over to the parents.