The Emigration racket that surfaced with the arrest of MP Babubhai Katara is not the only such case. Since 2005, 142 people accused of forgery and cheating in cases of illegal emigration have been declared proclaimed offenders.
The police say that during the course of the trial many of the accused slip away after getting bail. This, they say, is the reason investigations in these cases have not progressed.
Then there are other impediments to investigations. As Commissioner of Police KK Paul points out, "Most of the travel agents who are arrested do not disclose their real addresses, making it difficult for us to locate them. But we keep sending our teams to Punjab and Gujarat, the two states from where most cases are reported."
The past two years have also seen a significant increase in the number of passport forgery cases. From 2004 to April 25 this year, 1,891 such cases were registered and 497 agents arrested. The police say that in many cases illegally travelling passengers, who are victims, are arrested, but the agents escape.
"It is a big racket where people wanting to go abroad are duped. The passengers arrested are actually victims. They pay huge amounts of money to the travel agent without realising that they are being cheated. Why would somebody pay to go to jail?" asks Aditya Arya, Joint Commissioner of Police (Operations).
Identifying the problem areas, the police had prepared a list of wanted travel agents between 1995 and 2004. "Many have been arrested, and we are trying to find the others. A police team was also sent to Punjab in 2005 to get leads," added Arya.