When everyone is accusing travel agents of fraudulently sending many Indians to turmoil-hit Iraq, the Punjab government’s failure in effectively implementing the law for the registration of such agents and monitor their functioning is also stated to be equally responsible.
Punjab State Travel Agents Association state president Jatinder Walia said fresh law enacted by the Punjab government, the Punjab Travel Agents Regulation Act 2013, is very tedious and as per this law one need to have one lakh fee for the registration of the fee.
“There is no other business in Punjab that needs such a hefty amount for registration with the government and that too when the state would not provide us any facility. One needs to have 13 different certificates for the registration,” said Walia.
The district administrations are also ill-equipped when travel agents apply for registration.
Jalandhar district that has the maximum number of travel agents in Punjab and the special counter for registration of travel agents was started this week only by the district administration and that too after a huge hue and cry over the absence of facilities.
“I am visiting the counter at the suvidha centre to get myself registered for last three days but they asked me to complete a new formality everyday,” said Sarwan Singh, a travel agent at the mini-secretariat on Friday.
Amid no registration, a tea seller or a Photostat shop owner claims to be a travel agent knowing that there is nobody to check him.
As per rough estimates by Punjab State Travel Agents Association, there are around 1,500-1,700 agents registered in Punjab as compared to over 5,000 who are actually operating this business. For agents who only deal in tickets, the registration fee is Rs 25,000 which is very high.
Ramesh Bhatia, a leading travel agent from the city who has worked as a legal attorney for Punjab with the Libyan government, said it was surprising that even after the Indian government issued an advisory several months back, thousands of people went for work to Iraq.
“The only reason is that unscrupulous travel agents are operating. I know many who allured labour-class people by promising work in Dubai but they eventually sent them to Iraq or Iran. Till date, our government is not doing anything in checking the registration of agents,” he said.
Walia said for sending one labourer to Iraq or Iran, an “illegal” travel agents mints Rs 70,000-1,00,000 from a family.
SPS Oberoi, a Dubai-based businessman who has paid blood money for many Indians who were stuck in Gulf countries owing to lack of documents or other issues, said Punjab was a disaster when it came to facilitate those wishing to work as labourers abroad.
“In the absence of registration, they cheat uneducated labourers and show them fraudwork permits. People are usually not even aware if work visa is valid or fraud,” said Oberoi.