Satnam Singh (28) from the village Chak Rame of Shahkot was a marginal farmer with five kannals land (a little more than half acre), who also worked as a farm labourer in the fields of big farmers to earn his living. Today, he has no land and no savings after he sold all his land for Rs 10 lakh and borrowed Rs 8 lakh from his elder brother and in-laws to pay Rs 18 lakh to an agent to go to USA via Mexico. He was among 311 deportees who were sent back from the Mexico last Friday.
“I lost my five kannals land, and now I am under a debt of lakhs more. I have no other choice but to go to some other country and earn in dollars or some other foreign currency to repay my entire debt,” said Satnam Singh, who studied till Class 4.
On April 13, Satnam started his journey from New Delhi to the US via Mexico and crossed 14 countries before entering Mexico on July 7. There he spent almost 100 days before his deportation on October 17.
“Now my agent has promised me to send some other country but I don’t have any money to pay him....I wanted a better future for my two children and my family because of which I took this huge risk but now all has gone to waste. I have no idea about how I will survive,” he lamented.
After getting deported from Mexico as part of a group of 311 Indians last Friday, several youths who hail from Jalandhar, Hoshiarpur, Taran Taran, Amritsar and some other districts of Punjab blamed the state government for not acting tough against unscrupulous travel agents. They added that the government had failed in providing them jobs.
Manjit Singh (28) of Rajoke village in Tarn Taran District said that he was disappointed after his failed bid to reach the US.
“We spent hellish time on the way to the USA. We were kept by the donkers (agents who take illegal immigrants from one place to other) at congested places where we had to eat and attend the natural calls in small dingy rooms. Despite all that hardships, our trip failed,” he said.
He had started his journey from New Delhi on May 30 and reached Columbia on June 1 from where he went through Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala with various donkers to finally enter Mexico. In Mexico, he spent 45 days, including 40 in the camp.
“We were packed in a trala (big truck) which had no windows and taken from one place to other in Guatemala. We were gasping for breath,” he said.
Accusing the government of not acting against travel agents, he said: “They (agents) should come to our house to repay our money after cutting basic cost of the flight,” he said.
Manjit had studied till Class 12 and attended ITI course for sometime before dropping out. His family runs a small electronic goods shop, which is on rent. He had spent Rs 26 lakh on this trip.
Another youth who was deported, Sewa Singh (26), started his journey on July 19 from New Delhi and his first halt was Dubai. He too travelled through several countries hoping to reach the US. “Donkers in all these countries have the photos of the youth in their possession and after matching that photo with the youth they hand over the youth from one donker to the other in different countries,” he said, adding that now he is waiting for his agent to respond.
“If I go to police they will ask for some money from me to lodge an FIR which I don’t have,” he said. Sewa Singh hails from Miani village in Jalandhar and his family owns four acres of land. He had paid Rs 16 lakh to agent and also spent couple of lakhs more on the way to Mexico. He is now under a debt of Rs 18 lakh.
“I spent around two months on the way and spent 31 days in Mexico in camps before deportation,” he said, adding that there are over a dozen youths from Jalandhar alone among the deportees.