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Travails of youths cheated by agents
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 27
There seems to be no end to the tales of woe of Punjabi, Haryanavi and Himachali youths allegedly cheated by greedy travel agents. Five youths, who returned from Kuwait last evening, today gave an account of the brutal treatment given to them by travel agents there. Not only were their dreams to earn a livelihood shattered, they were also ruined financially because almost all of them had taken loans to pay the travel agents.

In all, 15 Punjabi, Haryanavi and Himachali youths have returned from Kuwait in the past three days. And 13 more youths are stranded there. Among them are Daljit Singh, Gulam Mohammad and Satpal. They are desperate to return to India. Some of them today talked to their family members on the mobile phone at the local Press Club.

The President of the Lok Bhalai Party, Mr Balwant Singh Ramoowalia, who had earlier played a crucial role in getting released a large number of youths from the clutches of travel agents, had established contact of the stranded youths with their families.

The most pathetic story was that of the family of Ms Paul Kaur, a 25-year-old girl from Bhai Rupa village in Bathinda district. To marry her off, his father had saved Rs 75,000 in the past several years.

However, as the money was not enough to solemnise her marriage, his father sent her brother, Daljit Singh, to Kuwait on the assurance of a travel agent that he would earn Rs 17,000 per month and his board and lodging would be free. The agent charged about Rs 1.5 lakh from him to send Daljit Singh to Kuwait. Besides paying Rs 75,000 that was saved for Ms Paul Kaurís marriage, the family arranged Rs 75,000 from a moneylender to pay to the agent.

However, Daljit Singh is now desperate to return to India as he has neither been paid the salary promised to him nor any other amount by the company which had employed them in Kuwait.

All five youths who returned from Kuwait told The Tribune that they were taken there to be put on construction work.

Certain youths, including Balwinder Singh from Ghal Kallan village near Moga, said if the Punjab Government failed to ensure that they got their money back from the agents, they would immolate themselves. The youths said they were not allowed to meet a team of journalists, which was taken to Kuwait by certain travel agents from Chandigarh.

Mr Ramoowalia said the Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, should call an all-party meeting to discuss this issue.

Mr Ramoowalia said there were nearly 1.5 lakh Punjabi youths stranded in various countries. He said the Jalandhar Regional Passport Office had got about one lakh queries from abroad with regard to the verification of passports of Punjabi youths.

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