The case of Tandi Aulakh native Gurdeep Singh and Jaid village resident Gurwinder Singh, who are both feared drowned in the Panama boat tragedy, underlines how gullible Doaba youths fall into the trap of unscrupulous travel agents.
Dazzled by dollar dreams, neither the youths nor their families knew to which part of the US they would be sent.
Gurdeep’s father Balwinder Singh said travel agent Kulwinder Singh Multani was among his best friends. Balwinder and Multani had been involved in financial dealings for the past 15 years. Gurdeep’s family, which is using more than 70 acres of land on lease for agriculture, was not interested in sending him abroad.
“Multani visited me in October last year and told me to send my son to the US. I refused. But when he insisted, citing that he had also sent his own son to the US, I trusted him as a close friend. He promised to send Gurdeep to the US through the proper procedure. Mera muqaddar maada si... main yakin kar leya. Mere naal maari keeti Multani ne (It was my bad luck that I trusted my friend. He cheated me,” said Balwinder, with tears in his eyes.
The family got the last voice message from Gurdeep’s number on January 6. “Asin ethon chal peye haan... te 10-12 din lagan ge…Asin Panama nu chal paye haan… Fikar ni karna. (We have left from here and it will take 10-12 days more. We are heading for Panama. Don’t worry),” said Gurdeep. The family is hoping against hope and has even started an ‘akhand paath’ in the local gurdwara. After not getting any call from Gurdeep, his father approached Multani, who initially kept giving assurances about making contact with the youth.
“At last, on January 15, he admitted to have sent the youths through the Panama route. My son was never interested in going there. Only I made him do so,” said Balwinder. Gurdeep, 26, has a two-year-old son and a six-month-old daughter.
The family of Gurjinder, 21, said Multani and his aide Harbhajan had promised that their Class-12 passout son would be able to earn Rs 1 lakh per month in the US.
When HT asked both families to which part of the US the agents had promised to take their sons, they replied that they never asked this question.