Advocate author, is a Chandigarh resident (www.anilmalhotra.co.in and www.anilmalhotra.co.in/blog).
After enterprising Punjabis, over ambitious Gujaratis approach human smugglers to scale 30 ft “Trump wall” at US-Mexico border. In last incident amongst 40 Gujaratis, a man fell to his death on Mexico side in an attempt to scale wall with metal plates and barbed wires while his wife cross wall to San Diego in USA. Aylan Kurdi, a three years old Syrian child refugee drowned in an abortive attempt to reach Greek Island of Kos after their overloaded boat capsized. Reportedly, “boat’s captain panicked due to high waves and jumped into sea, leaving Abdullah Kurdi in control of small craft with his family and other migrants aboard” and Aylan Kurdi’s body was washed up on shores of Turkish costal town of Bodrum. His picture spoke a million words engulfed in sorrow, pain and revulsion. People smugglers involved in illegal trafficking of migrants took another toll. A Media report from Brussels details death of 14 migrants after their over crowded boat carrying 100 migrants sank off coast of Malaysia. A media account from Sofia talks of detention of 125 illegal immigrants illegally crossing into Bulgaria and a UN panel in its tenth report states that 2000 Syrians have drowned in Mediterranean sea trying to reach Europe since 2011. It is also reported that more than 1000 migrants stranded for days at Budapest started a 175 kilometres walk to Austrian border after they were stopped from boarding trains to Austria and Germany because they did not possess EU visas.The Interior Minister of Austria states that human trafficking is reportedly “a business worth billions” and Europol, Europe’s police agency has stated that “an estimated 30000 people were involved in human smuggling gangs”. Frontex, which mans European Union borders, opines that human smugglers “normally hire Afghan or Syrian representatives to act as their agents on ground, handling contact with potential customers.” International Organisation for Migration, sees “growth of smuggling operation online”.
The menace is not new to North India. But, we must learn from what has happened. With merchants of death running thriving rackets of human smuggling in Punjab at cost of gullible youth trapped everyday with dollar dreams, waiting worsens plight of duped innocent citizens and this organized crime perpetuates horror and misery, flourishing with daring impunity. Smuggled migrants are vulnerable to exploitation and their lives are often put at risk. They have suffocated in containers, perished in deserts, drowned at sea or herded as forced labour in slave camps. Smugglers of migrants conduct their activities brazenly without fear or favour with no regard for human life. Survivors tell harrowing tales of their ordeal, forced to sit in human waste, deprived of food and water, while others around them die and their bodies are dumped at sea or on road sides. Smuggling of migrants generates high net worth profits at hands of criminals who fuel corruption and organized crime. Smuggling of migrants is a deadly business that must be combated as a matter of grave urgency and happily Punjab is first State ready to combat it.
THE GRAVE END
Naive youth fell prey to agents and landed up working as slave labour in ammunition dumps or fields in Iraq or end up condemned to live as illegal immigrants abroad in pitiable conditions with no hope of return if they manage to survive hazardous channels of death. Smuggling of migrants is a highly profitable business with a low risk of detection. For criminals, it is increasingly attractive to deal in human merchandise and this business of death is becoming more and more organized, in which professional international networks wantonly flourish transcending global borders and regions. India, as a nation, therefore, has a dire need to check this global menace. However, sadly, Emigration Act, 1983, which is an Act to consolidate and amend law relating to Emigration of citizens of India, neither defines human smuggling nor even looks at problems connected with this deathly trade. Thus, need for Parliament to legislate a Indian Human Smuggling law is a crying need. Piecemeal state legislations with limited ambit of application will restrict scope only to State territorial borders. A Central law is therefore, composite solution. Initiatives of Parliament must set this ball rolling. Till then, any State legislation on subject would be a welcome take off point and Government of Punjab deserves kudos for this innovative pioneer excellent effort.
THE PROPOSED SOLUTION IN NEW LAW
The Punjab Travel Professionals Regulation Act, 2012, is described as a law to provide for regulation of profession of travel agents with a view to check and curb their illegal, fraudulent activities, and malpractices of persons involved in organized human smuggling in State of Punjab and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto. Punjab Travel Professionals Regulation Act, 2012, enacted to provide a licensing regime for travel agents with penal provisions, has similar regulatory functions to check human smuggling. In this enactment “Travel Agent” means a person doing profession which involves arranging, managing or conducting affairs relating to sending persons abroad or which arise out of affairs of persons sent to a foreign country, and shall include a range of activities covering diverse practices . Likewise, “Human Smuggling” shall mean and include illegally exporting, sending or transporting persons out of India by receiving money from them or their parents, relatives or any other persons interested in their welfare, by inducing, alluring or deceiving or cheating.
It is further stated in Punjab Act, that “cheating” shall have same meaning as assigned to it in Sections 415 and 416 of Indian Penal Code, 1860. Therefore, Punjab Travel Professionals Regulation Act, looks at perils of deathly trade of human smuggling by defining it as an offence and creates a process for its regulatory enforcement by compulsory registration and imposition of punishment upon violations through a legal process prescribed in this Punjab Act.
REMEDIES IN LAW
Hence, placing both Acts i.e. Emigration Act, 1983 and Punjab Travel Professionals Regulation Act, 2012, side by side clearly shows that they enshrine regulatory mechanisms for recruiting agents and travel agents separately. Viewed objectively, both carry complimentary purposes in their own spheres. They are neither inconsistent or repugnant to each other. In fact, two laws compliment each other as they provide similar objectives, aims and functions for recruiting and travel agents respectively. Punjab has enacted a law which no other State in country has made. In fact, human smuggling is a silent issue in Emigration Act. Authority of law vested in State must be exercised to enforce this law. Punjab will proceed with its own initiative and lead nation in its yeoman spirit. Regardless, Parliament must seriously contemplate enacting a national law to control Indian borders to regulate this human smuggling industry with an iron hand.