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News of Punjab boy's death came with first remittance

National,Diaspora, Sun, 19 Oct 2008 IANS

Hoshiarpur (Punjab), Oct 19 (IANS) News of a 22-year-old Punjab youth's mysterious death in Lebanon came on the same day as his first remittance of Rs.31,000. It was a tragic coincidence for a family that fell victim to the state's thriving illegal immigration racket.


As if the shock of Manjinder Singh's sudden death last month was not enough, the family in this town, 140 km from Chandigarh, had to go through a 47-day ordeal to get his body back to India.



Sunday marked the culmination of this traumatic phase for a shattered family here when they finally cremated his highly decomposed body here.



'He had gone abroad in January this year with high hopes. When his first remittance of Rs.31,000 came, we thought everything was good. But fate had other things in store,' Manjinder's elder brother Balwinder Singh told IANS here.



Manjinder, Monu to family and friends, has two brothers and three sisters. The family - his father is police constable Sarwan Singh - resides in the police lines area of this town.



'We paid Rs.200,000 to an agent whose brother was in Lebanon. Seven boys from Punjab were taken to a hotel in Paharganj in Delhi from where the families were asked to go back saying the boys had a flight early next morning. We later realised that they only had a two-week visa for Syria instead of the promised work permit for Lebanon,' Balwinder Singh said.



Manjinder called up his family in January saying he did not know which country they were in. 'He told us that all boys were forced to walk continuously for 14 hours, even getting foot sores, to illegally cross the border into Lebanon from Syria,' Balwinder said.



The family received its last call from Manjinder Sep 5, just a day before the second call came from an unknown person telling them that he had died after falling from a building.



In his last call, Manjinder had told his family that he had remitted Rs.31,000 for them.



Hours after the call announcing his death came Sep 6, another person called from Lebanon, telling them in a drunk voice that Manjinder had been pushed from a building and been killed. The remittance money also came the same day.



The family immediately complained to the Hoshiarpur deputy commissioner who asked the police to investigate. The family also sought help from Hoshiarpur MP Avinash Rai Khanna to get the body back from Lebanon.



'We have received the complaint and the investigation against the agents is on,' Hoshiarpur district police chief S.S. Gill told IANS.



But the distraught family says the police have so far failed to take any action against the immigration agents who virtually pushed their son to death.



The loss of a young life for this Punjab-based family has once again exposed the flourishing illegal immigration system in the state, particularly in the Doaba belt - the land between Sutlej and Beas rivers comprising the districts of Jalandhar, Hoshiarpur, Kapurthala and Nawanshahr. In the state, shelling out millions of rupees to migrate, legally or illegally, to realise dollar dreams abroad is common practice.


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