The Punjab State Commission for NRIs has asked the state government to set up 'Human Trafficking Victim Relief Fund' within six weeks to encourage voluntary return of illegal immigrants by offering financial assistance.
Acting on an April 24 Hindustan Times report about a travel agent duping 14 young men on the pretext of sending them abroad, the commission headed by justice Arvind Kumar said that the Punjab Human Trafficking and Smuggling Act, 2012, may not help unless 'law enforcement units' were set up to ascertain a database on human trafficking. The units must also hold regional-level workshops involving the judiciary, lawyers, immigration police, civil society, public representatives and launch target awareness campaigns in the identified areas with NGOs, media and social workers.
"Any amount or fine received from travel agents or upon confiscation of acquired property will also go to the relief fund for providing aid to the victims," the panel said.
The panel has ordered that the anti-human trafficking law's implementation, establishment of 'law enforcement units' and fund creation need to be monitored by a three-member board, to be constituted by the state government and headed by an officer not below the rank of principal secretary.
The state has been asked to submit a compliance report by July 19, the next date of hearing.
Taking up the status report submitted by the Jalandhar city police in FIRs registered against travel agents, the commission said that business of human-trafficking was flourishing.
"A large number of registered and unregistered travel agents are a major source of human trafficking. These agents have their offices in the major cities and have retained further agents based in local towns and villages to approach and search for potential candidates.
Such human-trafficking results in emotional, financial and social costs. Doaba is the focal point for well-entrenched travel agents, who operate at the village level having multi-tier international connections. Thousands of trafficked people from India in general and Punjab in particular are languishing in various jails, refugee homes and camps in various countries," the panel observed.
HT had reported in its edition dated April 24 that the 13 young men returned to India from Iraq, but had alleged fraud by travel agents. One of their companions has not been allowed back as he could not pay Rs 50,000 to the people holding them hostage. The commission took suo motu cognizance and issued notices to home secretary and to the Jalandhar police commissioner to submit a status report.
The police said that a case of cheating had been registered against the accused on April 25. On May 11, a separate case of cheating and criminal breach of trust was also registered against travel agents Sajan Kumar, Ranjit Singh and Naresh on the receipt of complaints, the police said.