3 NRI agencies in state, but with no power in illegal migrants’ cases

JALANDHAR: With no single NRI body or enforcement agency in the state having been given the authority to take up issues specifically related to illegal migrants from the state, the issue is currently in no-man’s-land much like the illegal migrants themselves.

editorial@tribune.com

Aparna Banerji

Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, January 25

With no single NRI body or enforcement agency in the state having been given the authority to take up issues specifically related to illegal migrants from the state, the issue is currently in no-man’s-land much like the illegal migrants themselves.

As illegally trafficked migrants are not non-residential Indians (NRIs), the three nodal agencies running for NRIs in Punjab — the NRI Commission, NRI Sabha and the NRI wing of the police — cannot directly take up the issue. Both the NRI Sabha and Commission can make suggestions and have recommendatory powers over NRI issues, but these are not implementing authorities nor do these have the power to order direct enquiries into illegal migration cases.

The result is that while cases pile up, the government lacks a database of illegal migrant youths who went missing. The police cases also languish in local police stations due to the lack of a nodal body.

Additionally, while the 15 NRI police stations — running directly under the police’s NRI wing — are specifically meant to take up NRI matters, illegal migration, again, isn’t under their direct ambit.

Just the Turkish boat tragedy and the Mali missing youths (2004) collectively comprise over 60 youths missing from the state. The total number of missing youths in overseas tragedies is much larger.

But as these are not properly recorded, there is no ready record with the government to ascertain the scale of the menace. Nor is there a list of already indicted agents or the action being taken against them. Additionally, at least 83 recorded (with Singh and Kaur surnames) persons were languishing in US jails in 2014 alone.

Dr NS Kang, Sarpanch of Khassan village in Kapurthala who has also represented Punjab at the overseas ministry on illegal immigration, said, “In my village, there must be over 90 unauthorised agents. While there is no record of youths missing previously, more cases are steadily piling up. Unless a database or nodal department is created, we run the risk of repeating tragedies like Malta and Panama.”

IGP NRI Wing, Punjab, Ishwar Singh said, “We deal only with NRI matters. Hence, illegal migrant issues are not directly under our domain. In the case of complaints regarding illegal migration, we can only get a case registered through the district police. We might act as a coordinating agency where need be, but not as a statutory body.”

State NRI Commission chairman Rakesh Garg said, “As there is no specific provision or jurisdiction with us to investigate human trafficking cases, we can’t directly take up these cases and can only make recommendations.”

Former president, state NRI Sabha, Jasvir Singh Gill said, “Victims of illegal migration will be facilitated if the NRI Sabha is given powers to take decisions on the issue. I am planning to take this up with the NRI affairs minister in a couple of days. While the sabha can directly pass on its NRI cases to the 15 NRI wing police stations, it doesn’t have a say over illegal migrants,” he said.

Principal Secretaries of Home Affairs and NRI Affairs couldn’t be contacted despite repeated attempts.

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