In a landmark judgment,the Punjab NRI Commission on Monday asked the state to set up law enforcement units to ascertain a database on human trafficking and create a human trafficking victim relief fund to check illegal immigration of youth from Punjab to other countries.
Taking suo motu notice of a media report on 13 men who returned to Punjab from Iraq alleging that local travel agents had defrauded them,the Commission,headed by Justice (retd) Arvind Singh,said to encourage the voluntary return of illegal immigrants,limited financial assistance should be given to them out of the proposed fund. Any amount or fine received from travel agents or upon confiscation of acquired property will go to this relief fund,said order stated.
It added: The implementation of the Act,establishment of law enforcement units and creation of human trafficking victim relief fund need to be monitored by a three-member board to be constituted by the state government headed by an officer not below the rank of principal secretary. Since the situation in Punjab is alarming,the state government may act swiftly to implement the above referred in a time-bound manner in six weeks.
Giving details of the case,the Commission noted that travel agents Parminder Singh,Sunil Kumar and Saheb Singh all from Rama Mandi in Jalandhar had sent these men to Iraq in lieu of Rs 15 lakh and promised them jobs. However,they were allegedly forced to live in extreme deprivation and no job was provided. While 13 of them have managed to return,their companion Jagdeep Singh is still being held hostage by armed goons in Iraq,as he could not arrange Rs 50,000. His parents reportedly have a video that shows their son surrounded by armed goons. While the agents are absconding,the Jalandhar police has registered FIRs in the case.
The business of human trafficking is flourishing in Punjab. Doaba is the focal point for well-entrenched travel agents,who operate at the village level having multi-tier international connections. To curb this menace,the government enacted Punjab Human Trafficking & Smuggling Act-2012,mandating compulsory registration and licences for travelling agents. Once the Act has been enacted,it should not be left in lurch or in abeyance,otherwise the very purpose for which it has been enacted would be frustrated,if not implemented rigorously, the order stated.