Considering the lukewarm response by travel agents to the already notified Prevention of Human Smuggling Act, the Punjab government is set to bring amendments to the Act to make it conducive for all stakeholders. The Act would now be known as Travel Industry Regulation Act.
This was conveyed by principal secretary, home affairs and justice, DS Bains to members of the Punjab Travel Agents Association, Travel Agents Association of India and the Association of Consultants for Overseas Studies, during a specially convened counselling session here on Friday. Nearly 200 representatives from associated businesses participated in the session.
Bains told the representatives, "We have accepted all your genuine demands. Now the ball is in your court. Get yourself registered with the state government before January 31. It is mandatory. After that, the law will take its own course."
"Deputy chief minister Sukhbir Badal has, in principle, agreed to your amendments and it is likely that these would be considered at the proposed cabinet meeting on January 20," Bains said, adding that, "to enforce it, the government would also pass an ordinance to enact it."
Very few travel agents applied earlier for registration despite extension of several deadlines, demanding amendments in view of a threat to their business.
On the travel agents' demand, the government agreed to take the registration fees in five instalments, remove the clause of minimum imprisonment for defaulters, submission of periodical finance statements to the government, and to modify the complaints redressal system.
"The complaints against travel agents would be addressed to deputy commissioners from now. If they deem fit, the DCs will initiate an inquiry before penalising the defaulters," Bains said.
"The Punjab government is committed to enact this law very strongly, as pointed out by the Punjab and Haryana high court, to curb human trafficking cases. The act is favourable for those who wish to do legal businesses. We have to safeguards the interests of Punjabis trapped in the web of fake travel agents," Bains said.
Bains also made it clear to members attending the counselling session that the high court, in its decision on January 13 on a writ petition, had not stayed the Act. "However, the court has barred us from initiating punitive proceedings against defaulters till the matter is sub judice."
Bains also directed additional deputy commissioners of various districts to organise special camps from January 27 to 31 for the registration of travel agents so as to ensure maximum registration.
The session was also attended by divisional commissioner R Venkataraman, secretary (home) Sameer Kumar and deputy commissioner of police Rahul S.