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Eight boys return from Iraq to tell the tale of horror

Amrita Chaudhry, Ludhiana Newsline

December 20, 2005

Ludhiana, December 20: After returning from a nightmarish eight-month stay in Iraq, these boys advise the Punjabi youth to give up dollar dreams. The tale of sheer hell comprising of hunger, war and torture recounted by this batch of boys is hair-raising. And their story sounds much like that narrated by boys stuck earlier in foreign lands, defrauded by travel agents.

Hardeep Singh, a resident of Ailwal village in Gurdaspur district, shudders at the memories of those tough times. ''We were promised the job of a trawler driver in Kuwait with a salary of about Rs 33,000 per month. All we had to do was pay Rs 1.20 lakh to the sub-agent, undergo training in Dubai for three months, and then it was all to be a rosy future. But on reaching Dubai there was no training. We were all packed in a company’s 35-seater plane and left in Baghdad. From here our problems began,’’ recounts the 27-year-old.

Add Baljinder Singh and Karanpal, both from Amritsar, ''Here we were locked up in a small area which had a heavy wiring all around. We were made to do menial tasks for US soldiers like picking up their excreta, washing their clothes, picking up their cigarette butts — all this for 50 US dollars a month, and a plate of boiled rice once a day. If we raised our voice we were tortured.’’

These boys add that they were made to drive trucks in the war-prone area. ''We had made it clear to our agent before we left India that we would not work in Iraq. But there, we were made to drive trucks right into the areas where bombs were being dropped. We could not protest either, for our passports were with the company authorities,’’ said Dharampal, resident of Siala village in Luhdiana district.

Lakhvir Singh, 29, says the experience has left them with life-long scars. ''After our ordeal, all we can say is that it is better to earn less in our own country, rather than get caught in the lure of earning millions abroad. We had lost all hope of seeing our families ever again. But we know that the Punjabi youth can never give up this dream of going abroad. We advice them to go to some government-approved travel agent and not get defrauded by travel agents,’’ he highlights.

These youngsters are among the first batch of eight youths who have been rescued by Lok Bhalai Party and brought back to their homes. A total of 27 youth were in this predicament.

Family faces penury

Tilak Raj, the father of Vijay Kumar, cannot stop his tears, and says life has placed them in a strange situation. ''I am happy to see my son alive, after all that he had to go through. But I am also scared about what will he do now. We sold everything we had to send him abroad. The money that I had saved after my job in AIR Shimla, the small house we had built, a lone tanker we had, even the jewellery of my daughter-in-law — all was sold to send him to Kuwait. Now we are penniless and Vijay has small children and a family to feed. Our future is totally dark,’’ said Tilak Raj. The family hails from Ropar.




:: Article nr. 18876 sent on 21-dec-2005 03:16 ECT

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Link: cities.expressindia.com/fullstory.php?newsid=162174



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