Thursday, August 21, 2003, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

Missing cricketers’ motive suspicious
J.S. Malhotra

Jalandhar, August 20
The sudden disappearance of five members of a Jalandhar-based women’s cricket club in Hounslow in west London on Tuesday is being viewed as part of major human smuggling racket operational in Punjab under the garb of international cultural and sports exchange programmes.

Ironically, the Punjab Sports Department officials and prominent cricket figures of the city were not aware about the activities of this cricket club, which managed to secure visas from the British Embassy for its contingent reportedly without facing any difficulty.

Three out of five missing players are students of a local women’s college.

It is learnt that the Punjab Women’s Cricket Association (PWCA) had written a letter to the British Embassy last month asking the latter not to grant visas to any women’s cricket club, which was not duly affiliated to it, the apex body for women’s cricket in Punjab.

According to information available here, a group of 13 women cricket players from Punjab and some officials of Lynex Cricket Club were granted a 21-day visa to participate in a cricket tournament in England by the British Embassy in the first week of August. The Lynex Cricket Club had submitted certain documents, including an invitation letter extended to it by a Worscetershire based cricket club with the Embassy authorities.

Though the club members reached London on August 10 and participated in two matches there, suddenly five of its members identified as Baljeet Kaur, Ekta, Parvesh Rani, all students of a prominent women’s college here; and Rajwant Kaur and Mandeep Virk had disappeared on August 12.

Rajwant Kaur had completed her graduation from a local college in the year 2000, while Mandeep Virk, who hails from Ferozepure, is studying at an Amritsar college, sources said.

While the Principal of the local women’s college concerned was not available for comments, sources revealed that it was a pre-planned move on the part of the club organisers to facilitate immigration of cricket players to England using legal means.

An official of PWCA revealed that the association in a communication to the British Embassy last month had said visas to such non-affiliated cricket clubs should not be issued.

“We have performed our duty by informing the authorities concerned even as it is surprising that the cricket club had been issued visas,” he said.

Though exact details of the antecedents of the missing players could not be ascertained due to a holiday today, sources maintained that lakhs of rupees changed hands on the promise of facilitating immigration to England and to arrange jobs for them in the UK.

The district police was, however, not aware about the identity of the office-bearers of Lynex Cricket Club even as they had started conducting an inquiry into the incident.

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