A thriving network of unauthorised travel agents involved in human trafficking illegally confined and tortured a Dalit woman from Punjab for three years in Singapore. The case came to light shortly after another woman from the state had alleged gangrape in Ukraine.
Veerpal Kaur, 26, a Mazhabi Sikh from Moga district, returned to India last week after spending six years in Singapore as an illegal immigrant. She was physically tortured and forced to work as a housemaid without money for three years after she refused to join a prostitution group.
The family of Veerpal, who was taken to Singapore in 2002 by a Moga-based travel agent, has thanked former Union minister Balwant Singh Ramoowalia and the Indian mission in Singapore “for ending the six year-old torture of their daughter, during which she was repeatedly subjected to severe physical assault”.
Ramoowalia had also helped Ludhiana’s Sarabjeet Kaur, 25, who had been held captive for 30 months in Singapore and Ukraine by her agents. Sarbajeet has alleged that she was raped several times.
Veerpal’s father Mohinder Singh sent her to Singapore with a Moga-based travel agent after paying him Rs 1 lakh on being assured of a job for his class X educated daughter in a private company. However, the agent Parminder Singh Gill kept Veerpal with him for about a week on reaching Singapore and then handed her over to his business partner there.
Veerpal says she was forced by both the agents to join a prostitution group, “as it was a paying job”. And her troubles began when she refused. “I was forced to work in the house of a Hindu family for two years, but was never paid any salary. On demanding money, I was shifted to work for a Sikh family, who used to routinely beat me for a year”, she told HT.
Gill has denied all charges levelled by Veerpal’s family. His office said: “Since a complaint has been filed against him and the matter was pending in the court we would not like to comment, but he has been falsely named in the case.”
Veerpal said when she insisted on returning to India in 2005, the agents asked her employers to register a case of theft against her. The 26-year-old had to wait for nearly three more years in a shelter house till the case ended in her acquittal, which enabled the Indian mission to give her emergency papers to return.