Indian embassy in Bagdad is facilitating return tickets and exit visas for the safe return of 33 youths from Punjab stranded in Iraq after being duped by travel agents, the Union government on Tuesday informed the Punjab and Haryana high court.
Advocate Anil Malhotra had informed the high court that as per the newspaper reports dated August 11, unscrupulous travel agents lured about 40 youths from Punjab to Iraq for jobs. The victims are now facing inhuman treatment in the country.
It was submitted that these youths belong to Jalandhar, Hoshiarpur and Kapurthala districts.
The court was also informed that as per a police complaint lodged in Jalandhar, these youths have been sent to Najaf, about 160 kilometer South of Bagdad and have been forced to clear battle fields strewn with used missiles, bomb shells and rocket launchers in the violence-torn country.
However, appearing for the union government, advocate Onkar Singh Batalvi, informed the bench on Tuesday that Indian embassy in Baghdad has taken charge of 26 workers by making arrangement for their accommodation and food.
However, the other seven of them have been taken to Irbil by their local travel agents for their departure because they entered the country through Erbil and as per local regulations they can exit only through Erbil.
Also a letter by PM Meena, joint secretary, ministry of external affairs, was placed on record stating that the ministry of foreign affairs of Iraq has assured to take up the matter with the ministry of interior and labour on the issue.
On the suggestions submitted to address the issues by Anil Malhotra, amicus curiae appointed by the court, Meena informed that the ministry of overseas Indian affairs, responsible for welfare of working Indians abroad, has established Indian community welfare fund for providing various emergency services to stranded Indians. After going through the reply, the bench also impleaded ministry of overseas Indian affairs as one of the parties in the ongoing case.
The bench also directed that advocate Anil Malhotra and additional advocate general, Punjab, Piyush Kant shall interact with the workers who had been brought back and shall prepare a report to submit in the court.
As per the earlier directions, a status report by inspector general of police, Punjab (Intelligence) was placed before the division bench headed by justice MM Kumar on Tuesday. The report mentioned that eight criminal cases have so far been registered against travel agents in the state in relation to nine youths.
It was also informed that eight youths working in Najaf have already returned to India and 11 others are in the process of coming back.