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Illegal immigration menace continues to haunt Punjab, 25 youth go missing

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Chandigarh: The menace of illegal immigration continues to haunt Punjab. Around 25 youth from Punjab went missing after the boat, in which they were trying to sail illegally to the United States, reportedly capsized near the central American country of Panama on January 10. One of the survivors gave information on the tragedy to his family last week.

The Punjab government, led by Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, has just done the customary routine – urging the Center to intervene, setting up a control room to inform affected families and sending officials abroad to know about the missing youth.

The lack of will on the part of the Punjab government and its agencies to curb the activities of unscrupulous immigration and travel agents who lure youth from the state by promising them immigration to western countries has again brought misery to a number of families.

The Panama boat tragedy is nothing different from the Malta one of December 1996 in which 283 youth from Punjab went missing after their boat too capsized.

“In the past nearly 20 years, after the Malta boat tragedy, chargesheet has not even been filed against the 29 travel agents who were booked by the CBI,” activist Balwant Singh Khera, who set up the Malta Boat Tragedy Mission and has been pursuing the case, pointed out.

While three accused were punished in Italy, those accused in India have remained free. Seven of these accused have died in the past two decades.

In April 2002, another boat capsized near Turkey in which 20 youth went missing.

The Punjab Prevention of Human Smuggling Act, which was passed in 2012 and notified the next year, was brought in to check illegal immigration from the state and save youth from falling into the trap of illegal agents.

The law mandated that all immigration agents had to obtain a license from the state government to operate there. However, hundreds of unregistered agents continue to operate unchecked.

The illegal immigration industry, according to trade insiders, is worth between Rs 2,000 crore to Rs. 2,500 crore annually due to the craze among youth to settle abroad.

“The Punjab government is responsible for taking action against fake immigration agents. The Panama incident has again shown that no action is being taken,” former chief minister and Congress leader Rajinder Kaur Bhattal said.

In April 2014, the North American Punjabi Association (NAPA) had brought to light the plight of Punjabi youth who were detained in a prison in Texas in the United States after being arrested for illegal immigration.

The arrested youth, upset with the treatment being meted out to them, went on a hunger strike inside the prison.

It is believed that over 15,000 youth from Punjab, who became part of the illegal immigration racket, are languishing in prisons in various countries.

In the past, there have been instances of youth indulging in illegal immigration – called ‘kabootarbaazi’ (Pigeon flying).

In 2010, the Punjab government sought the help of the central government to secure the release of 37 Punjabi youth who were languishing in prisons in Spain. (Jaideep Sarin, IANS) (Photo:latino.foxnews.com)

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BJP accuses Congress for allowing illegal immigrants in Assam

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New Delhi: Bhartiya Janta Party president Amit Shah accused Congress-led Assam government on Friday for allowing illegal immigrants from Bangladesh in the north-east state for increasing vote bank, which can jeopardise national security.

Shah also asserted in a rally today, that BJP was the only party that did not negotiate on national security to increase vote bank. He further added that no state could be free of illegal immigration under Congress rule.

He further alleged the Congress of having “tacit understanding” with All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) and challenged Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi to have an open dialogue with AIUDF chief Maulana Badaruddin Ajmal instead of having a secret agreement.

“…main aap logon se poochhna chahta hun kya Congress aur AIUDF aapko Bangladeshi mukt Assam de sakta hain (Do you think Congress and AIUDF can give you a Bangladeshi-free Assam?),” said shah in the rally, criticising the apparent vote-bank politics of the Congress and AIUDF.

Emphasising on his party’s dedication towards Assam’s regional development, Shah stated the continuing Naga peace talks and the surrendering of United Liberation Front of Assam general secretary Anup Chetia from Bangladesh and said it was NDA-led BJP Government that was effectively progressing towards regional development.

“Assam is a state with international borders. We know the necessity for a secure border. Being a frontal state, Assam needs, above all, a patriotic government, a committed government that understands the importance of national security. Only a BJP government can ensure all these,” he further added.

The BJP president also accused the Tarun Gogoi government of not being transparent and said that the Congress can never provide a corruption-free administration to the locals.

Shah further requested BJP workers in Assam to do a door to door campaign to expose alleged corruption of the Congress government in the state prior of the 2016 assembly elections.

Vindicating the Centre’s efforts on the land swapping accord between India and Bangladesh, he said the agreement will resolve the problem of illegal infiltration from the bordering nation.

(With inputs from IANS)

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