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HindustanTimes Sun,28 Dec 2014

Back from Iraq, Patiala village youths tell tales of exploitation

Navrajdeep Singh , Hindustan Times  Patiala, July 01, 2014
First Published: 09:09 IST(1/7/2014) | Last Updated: 18:22 IST(1/7/2014)

Two youths of Khotoli village in the district, who had gone in search of greener pastures four months ago, are back from strife-torn Iraq with their dreams shattered.

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Cousins Amarjit Singh (30) and Harjinder Singh (26) reached their home at Khotoli village in Patiala district on Monday after the member the Parliament from Sangrur, Bhagwant Mann arranged return tickets for them.

A total of 11 people from the village were stranded in different areas of the violence-hit country after the terrorist outfit Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) took over Iraq’s Mosul town last month, they said.

The two reached Karbala town of Iraq in February 21 and were working with some construction company since then. They were ecstatic over their reunion with families, but the trauma of exploitation at the hands of their employers, especially during the past one month, was writ large on their faces.

Harjinder said they were sold twice by travel agents before reaching Iraq. “Showing us greener pastures, a Kurukshetrabased travel agent, who promised us job at an army base in Iraq, gave us visa for Dubai, where we stayed for 20 days. From Dubai, we were sold to another agent, identified as Ali, who further sold us to an Iraq-based agent in Basra,” Harjinder said.

Harjinder’s cousin Amarjit Singh said conditions turned horrible after June 11 when their employers fled following reports of the ISIS capturing Mosul.

“After June 11, goons of our employers forced us to remain on the company premises, where each one was given a stale rice and halfa-bottle of water a day.” he said.

ALL PRAISE FOR BHAGWANT MANN

All praise for Bhagwant Mann, who ensured their return home, they said he is like God to us.

“We contacted Bhagwant Mann after seeing his Facebook post. He initiated talks with our employers, who returned our passports. Mann arranged our return tickets to India and bore all expenses till we reached home,” said Harjinder Singh.

Meanwhile, another youth, Sahib Singh, from the same village also returned home from Iraq on Monday evening.

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