Bhartesh Singh Thakur
Karnal/Kurukshetra, Sept 30
It’s a Diwali-like celebration almost every third night in Ror community-dominated Shamgarh (Karnal) and Abhimanyupur (Kurukshetra) villages as firecrackers are burst and sweets distributed to announce a native youth has touched foreign shores.
Sagar Chaudhary’s family in Shamgarh burst crackers worth Rs 75,000 on Tuesday night after he landed in the US. They spent close to Rs 54-55 lakh on his trip through the “donkey route”, a term coined by traffickers for entering a foreign nation illegally via multiple stops in several countries.
Use ‘donkey route’ to reach US shores
Common route taken: Via Ethiopia, South Korea, Japan, Mexico and El Salvador
Average travel cost: Rs 50 lakh per person for journey to the US
Travel duration: About 40 days
“My younger brother Sagar (20) left on August 17 and reached the US on September 24 through Ethiopia, South Korea, Japan, Mexico, and El Salvador,” says Sahil (25). Two of his uncles and several cousins have also taken the same route. “I too may leave someday,” he says. Having studied till Class XII, Sagar had been chasing his “foreign dream” like every other youth in his village. “Our family has only two acres of land. There are no jobs here. A private job can at best pay you Rs 12,000-Rs 15,000,” reasons Sahil.
463 cases of fraud registered since April
The more you pay, lesser is the risk involved in reaching the US. Since April, 463 cases of immigration frauds have been registered. —Sibash Kabiraj, IGP and head of sit probing illegal immigration
About 400-450 youth from Shamgarh have gone abroad in recent years. “Youth from all communities are moving abroad, but the trend is more prevalent among the Ror community. Most of them choose the “donkey route”, spending about Rs 45-50 lakh per head,” says former Shamgarh sarpanch Balkrishan. Small farmers are selling their fertile land to send their children abroad, he reveals. “Agents charge in advance, probably as a long chain of people need to be paid. Even agents are buying the land,” adds Balkrishan. About 20 km from Shamgarh, Abhimayupur (Amin) village has a similar tale to narrate. Surrounded by paddy fields, it has produced a number of volleyball players over the years, but the youth are now pursuing dollar dreams. Almost every household has a relative working abroad.
Yashpal Arya, who used to run a volleyball academy, says, “My sports academy used to have 100 youth. Then came the Covid lockdown. After that, I had to close it down as most of the trainees moved abroad.”
Deshraj (75), a farmer with 32 acres of land, has six grandsons. Five of them are now abroad, three of them making to the US through the “donkey route”. The sixth, aged 12, too aspires to settle in the US. “Agriculture used to be our mainstay. But the division of land over several generations has left us with little to cultivate. There is abounding unemployment. Abroad, our children labour at pumps or stores. Earlier, they would send remittances, but now they are saving to settle down there,” he says.
Age, meanwhile, is not the criterion for taking a flight abroad. Those married and having children too are moving out. Shakti Singh (37), who has two kids and three acres of land, has twice gone abroad illegally. The first time he was deported from Mexico in 2018. In April, he returned from Italy after suffering from typhoid. “It’s much better outside than sitting idle here,” he says.
Not only unemployment, but peer pressure and the lure to make a fast buck too are driving people to the US. Rahul Chauhan was serving as an ASI in the Haryana Police. “He left his job five years ago, took a “donkey route” and reached the US,” says his father RK Chauhan (62), a former volleyball player and an owner of three acres. “Marriages or family functions in the village are devoid of any radiance as you hardly find youths in the 18-35 age group. After a few years, no one will be left for our funerals. After leaving illegally, you can’t be back for at least 10 years,” says Deshraj.
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