4 Punjabis trapped in Armenia return
THREE-MONTH ORDEAL Say life was hell there as they were jobless and had to go without food for days
KAPURTHALA: Four Punjabis who were duped by travel agents and were stranded in Armenia for the past three months reached Punjab on Saturday evening.
A group of seven travel agents fraudulently sent Harmanjeet Singh of Nadala town, Jatinder Singh of Amritsar district, Shamsher Singh of Bholath and his wife Pinki to Armenia on a tourist visa in December last year after promising a work visa in exchange of ₹4 lakh each.
The four landed at the Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi on Saturday morning where they were received by Sangrur MP and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) state president Bhagwant Mann. They had shared a video on the social media on February 2 seeking help from Mann.
“We went in December with a promise of work permit. Within a few days, we got to know they didn’t have work for us. We were told if we get more people to go to Armenia, we will get ₹50,000 as a commission. My dreams have been shattered. The youths who want to go abroad should verify the credentials of travel agents,” said Harmanjeet, adding that government should arrest the agents and refund their money.
Another victim Shamsher Singh said: “They lured us and promised jobs with a monthly salary of ₹40,000. But once we reached Armenia, there was no work. We were without food for many days... life was a hell there.”
“Four people who were stuck in Armenia have reached Delhi today. I thank the ministry of external affairs and Sushma ji who worked hard. The Indian embassy took care of them and arranged tickets for their return,” said Mann.
On Tuesday, Kapurthala police registered three FIRS against Armenia-based travel agent Harpreet Kaur, Gurdev Singh, Paramjeet Kaur, Parminder Kaur of Dhilwan, Komaldeep of Jandiala and Jaswinder Singh of Beas under Section 420 (cheating) and Section 13 of the Punjab Prevention of Human Smuggling Act, 2012.
The police have so far arrested three travel agents in the case.
After HT’S February 7 report, external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj contacted the Indian ambassador in Armenia and asked him to help the stuck Indians. She also talked to chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh demanding arrest of the travel agents. The CM assured Swaraj of strict action against the accused.
Speaking to news agency ANI in Delhi, Mann said: “I have raised the issue in Parliament several times. Sushma ji has also asked the Punjab government to frame laws for travel agents. I am told the same agent sent seven more people to Armenia on January 31.” He said if the youth get jobs within India, they would not abroad.
Sangrur MP Bhagwant Mann with those who returned from Armenia on Saturday.