Fare up five-fold: Farmers forced to mortgage land to buy air tickets to Canada for wards
With the cost of an air ticket to Canada increasing four-five times to around ₹3 lakh from ₹60,000 before the Covid-19 pandemic when booked well in advance, farmers in the state are mortgaging their land to ensure that their wards, enrolled in universities there, reach before semesters start in September first week.
The situation has been caused by the Covid scenario, which remains fluid and limited international travel with restrictions galore.
Magghar Singh, a small farmer from Moga, has mortgaged a chunk of his agricultural land for ₹4 lakh to buy an air ticket for his son for ₹3 lakh. His son is going there on a study visa. Canada has banned direct flights from India and also restricted the number of flights; some unscrupulous travel agents using this to make a fast buck by black-marketing tickets.
Students are anxious to reach Canada as they fear flights could halt, if the third wave of Covid hits. Magghar Singh said, “My son applied for study visa a year ago and has been attending online classes. Now, flights are on, but ticket prices have jacked up. I had no option, but to mortgage land to arrange his travel.”
As has been the common practice, Doaba-based travel agents book seats of flights to Canada, as a new semester in the universities there near and sell these at a fat profit to uneducated and gullible villagers.
Kanwalpreet Singh, a Ludhiana-based travel agent, said, “Education abroad has become very expensive. Expenses on a study visa is between ₹17 lakh and ₹20 lakh for admission in business administration courses. With the high price of air tickets, parents have to shell out even more.”
Narain Kaur of Lamme village of Jagraon has mortgaged her house to send her only son to Canada, who took admission in business administration. “If he reaches there and settles down, I will also go and live with him.”
Route to Canada changed; negative Covid report mandatory
With the coronavirus outbreak, flights to Canada are going via Mexico, Maldives, Doha and Albania. Passengers have to get tested for Covid here and only those with negative reports are allowed to continue to Canada.
Jagjit Singh, a city based travel agent, said, “We instruct students not to handover their passports to anyone in Mexico, where gangs snatch students’ passports and return these only after money is paid to them. Even at hotel receptions, students have been instructed to submit only a copy of their passport and not handover the original document.”