After the sordid tale of exploitation of Indian workers in Mississippi, comes a shocking case of illegal confinement and rape of a woman from Punjab by unauthorised travel agents in Ukraine.
<b1>The family of 25-year-old Sarabjeet Kaur of a Ludhiana village has alleged that she was held captive for over 30 months in Singapore and Ukraine.
Sarabjeet’s father Gurdev Singh said she was promised a clerical job in Singapore in 2005, for which the family paid Rs 8 lakh, only to find her life in danger a year later.
“We are poor people and had to mortgage our house and land to a private moneylender. We did it in the hope of a well-paying job for our daughter, who had studied till Class 10,” Singh told Hindustan Times.
The family said their daughter was alive only because of the intervention of former union minister Balwant Singh Ramoowalia, and the alertness of the Indian mission in Ukraine. Sarabjeet returned to India on Tuesday.
Singh said the family agreed to send his daughter to Singapore, after paying the money to a Tarn Taran based travel agent, who assured him that a female agent would escort her daughter to the destination.
“However, instead of a job, Sarabjeet was forced into prostitution. On her refusal, she was made to work as a maid in somebody’s house, and all her documents taken away”, the depressed father said.
After two years, Sarabjeet was asked to move to Ukraine by the people of the same network, and the real ordeal began. “She was raped repeatedly by a gang of travel agents, who wanted her to become a part of the flesh trade for the rest of her life”, Singh said.
Sarabjeet was lucky in informing her family that she was in Kiev, and it was then her father contacted Ramoowalia and pleaded for help.
Ramoowalia wrote to the Indian ambassador in Kiev, Debabrata Saha, who provided consular help to Sarabjeet. “It was reported to us that a woman from Punjab was in Ukraine without travel documents, we provided her with emergency documents, so that she could go back home”, an official from the embassy said.
Demanding strong action against the agents who had sent Sarabjeet to Singapore and Ukraine, Ramoowalia said, “Both the agents are roaming free. We were lucky to get this girl freed, but I have information on 300 more girls from Punjab who have been smuggled to at least six countries”.
“Earlier, it was thought that the girls were being sent abroad only for marriage, but the latest reports were alarming. In this particular case, the amount spent by the victim’s family should be returned to her, who has lost everything”, the former minister said.