Wednesday, January 8, 2003, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

7 Haryana youths in Pak jail
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 7
It is yet another story of exploitation of unemployed youths by human smugglers in the guise of manpower agents, who, instead of getting their unsuspecting clients through to Greece, the promised destination, landed them in a series of jails, including Quetta in Pakistan.

The victims — seven youths from Haryana and three from Punjab in the 17-30 age group — had been moving from one jail to another ever since their attempt to sneak into Greece failed in the last week of September.

Though they have completed their stipulated “imprisonment for violating the Foreigners’ Act in Pakistan”, their release from Quetta jail and their subsequent return to India may take some time as inter-governmental formalities have to be completed.

Mr Muhammad Qasim, a lawyer of the Baluchistan High Court in Pakistan, has in a letter to his friend, Mr Satya Pal, Secretary, Servants of the People Society here, given him the details about the “imprisoned youths” saying that “they have completed their imprisonment and need help to go back to India”.

Mr Qasim came to know of their imprisonment during his last visit to the Quetta jail. The letter is dated December 22.

The detained youths are Inderjit Singh (17) of Brara in Ambala, Bachittar Singh (22) of Urnaya (Pehowa) Harmesh Kumar (22) of Chandel Kalan in Nawanshahr; Satnam Singh (22) of Sohal in Gurdaspur; Rakesh Kumar (20) of Yamunanagar; Balwinder Singh (22) of Ladwa, Rajwinder Singh (22) of Patiala, Sukhwinder Singh (22) of Siwan Majra in Ambala, Surjeet Singh (20) of Pehowa and Sarbjeet Singh (17) of Bakhli, Kurukshetra.

The Tribune spoke to the parents and relatives of nine of them. They all are aware that their wards have been “duped” by the agent and they are undergoing “imprisonment in the Quetta jail”.

All victims belong to lower middle-class families. While the parents of seven victims are labourers or workers, only one belongs to a marginal farmers’ family. Another one is the son of a conductor in a private transport company.

The worried parents have written letters to the Prime Minister and the External Affairs Minister, seeking their intervention for immediate release of their wards.

“We have been receiving letters from them from the Quetta jail. They have written that no charge other than entering Pakistan without authorisation has been levelled against them”.

“In fact, they were first caught in Turkey where they spent some time in jail before they were pushed back to Iran where they had yet another term in jail. From Iran, they landed in Pakistan,” says Ms Balwinder Kaur, a sister of Sukhwinder Singh, one of the detained youths from Siwan Majra in Ambala district.

All of them want their parents to get their plight highlighted in the media, so that the Union Government takes immediate steps to ensure their repatriation from Pakistan.

The families of seven victim hold Kashmir Singh of Geludwa, near Pehowa, responsible for the plight of their wards. Only two families said that “ the unknown agent was from Delhi”. But the asking rate was the same — Rs 3.5 lakh each.

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