Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma

Cong Will Not Get More Than 30-40 LS Seats: Himanta

Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on Thursday said that the Congress will not get more than 30 to 40 seats in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections and post elections there will be a decline of the grand old party.

Speaking at the Republic TV Summit 2024, the Assam CM also mentioned that his wish is that the Congress should be reduced to 11 seats but that would not happen.

“My wish is that they (Congress) should reduce to 11 (the number of players in the Indian Cricket team) but it would not happen. Congress will not get more than 30 to 40 Lok Sabha seats. They have already become a regional party. After staying in that party for years, I am predicting that in many state there would be a regional Congress, not a national one.”

He also predicted that family politics will cease to exit after the Lok Sabha polls and the emergence of development based politics.

“Post-election, You will see a decline in Congress and an end to family politics. No family politics will survive in this country after this election. A new politics will emerge where people will compete for development,” he said.

He further said that the grand old party have nothing to silence the development journey of the Prime Minister.

“PM Modi recently inaugurated projects in Assam worth 16,000 crore. The day after tomorrow, he will again visit. On March 23, he will lay the foundation of 30,000 crore investments. Wherever he is visiting, you can see what kind of development is taking place. Now Congress is not questioning the numbers, they have nothing to silence the development journey of the Prime Minister. PM has proposed development,” he added.

“This is just a trailer of what has happened in the last 10 years. The whole picture is yet to be seen,” Himanta Biswa Sarma asserted.

The Assam CM emphasized that one has to analyse the Prime Minister from his larger vision. Was it, not Delhi that hosted the G20 summit? He could have taken it to Gujarat. Is it not indirectly helping Kejriwal enhance the National Capital?

Further, speaking on him being an Anti-Muslim, CM Himanta Biswa said that anyone can visit Assam and see the love and affection he gets from the Muslims.

“I am anti-Owaisi or anti-Rahul Gandhi, but when it comes to the Muslims, anyone can come to Assam and see the Muslim-dominated areas, that is how much love and affection I get from them. These customs of having two marriages are not in the Holy Book Quran. One should respect the holy book of every religion,” he said.

“Every state of the northeast is not the same. The Manipur crisis was between two communities but the fact was that neither Meiti nor Kuki was criticising the BJP because they had reconciled to the fact that it was our issue and they met us with that only. Indian government announced to fence the India-Myanmar border. Meities are welcoming it but Nagas, Kukis, and Mizos are opposing it. There is a lot of contradiction in the North-east. These are not created by the BJP it was there since the beginning. Nobody is criticizing PM Modi. Have you seen any Kuki or Meiti people criticising the Prime Minister?” CM Himanta Biswa said. (ANI)

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A Delhi Covid Survivor Shares His Story

While the 2nd wave of Covid-19 is mercifully behind India now, the danse macabre it brought in its wake, during March-May, will continue to haunt many citizens for a lifetime. A first-person account of a Covid survivor in Delhi brings you the situation up close:

The first symptoms showed up benignly: a mild fever of 100 degreeF (38C) and a gentle cough. But I had read enough about Covid to take these signals mildly. I isolated myself from the rest of my family, kept a bottle of sanitizer close and called the local chemist to deliver a pulse Oxy-meter and some medicines.

Warning signs came early. My calls to various pathology test labs for a swab sample to determine the infection were politely turned down. Most labs had suspended their services due to a massive surge. It was after two days that I was able to get myself tested at a hospital unit; the results took another two days.

Meanwhile, I consulted a doctor who specialized in internal medicine and treated Covid patients. I dutifully followed his prescriptions. The brands prescribed were not available at chemist shops but their generic alternatives could be managed. I read every information related to Covid-19 available on the Internet during isolation. I was sure by fifth-sixth day, things will take a positive turn.

But that was not to be.

My fever shot up to 103 degree F on the fifth day. Oxygen level, hitherto 99%, slipped to 95 intermittently. These were not happy signals. I consulted another senior doctor who added a few new medicines, including a cortico-steroid called Medrol. I was told to get back in two days if symptoms did not improve. They did not.

The new doctor advised admission to a hospital. His own facility, he apologized, was packed to capacity. He suggested in case we did not get a hospital bed that day itself, we should take an oxygen concentrator on rent. With my Oxygen levels dwindling, we arranged a concentrator. It was a good decision as by midnight, my O2 score fell off the red-mark 92.

The next day, we began the hunt for a hospital bed afresh. By afternoon, the severity of situation became clear to us. There were no beds available, leave alone a room, in either state or private hospitals across Delhi. Having called at least 50 hospitals and other leads provided by friends, little positive came out. Interestingly, I received a few calls from medical touts who promised a bed with oxygen for Rs 1 Lakh at non-descript facilities. Some offered to set up similar facilities at our place itself with an attendant for a hefty sum. I ignored the medical mafia calls.

I sought help from some of my resourceful friends. One of them posted an SOS on social media site Twitter. This was picked up by common friends and further amplified. By evening, a few windows opened. I was told the Delhi government had set up new Covid facilities and beds were available there. Friends were coordinating with officials to get me admitted there. By then, I was completely dependent on the concentrator for breathing. My family called up an ambulance to take me to any Covid facility that is finalised. My housing society, which had stored oxygen cylinders, offered them during transportation. It looked that things had begun to fall in place.

ALSO READ: ‘India Likely To Face Large New Covid Waves’

Yamuna Sports complex, a large stadium turned into a Covid facility, was finally zeroed in on. I left home with my brother by my side, but as I stepped toward the society elevator, my vision blurred. Suddenly, there was darkness all around. When I opened my eyes again, I was sitting inside an ambulance, with a mask linked to an oxygen cylinder and people looking over me. I had blacked out and was lifted into the vehicle for oxygen feed. I realised the grim situation I was in. At the sports Complex, after some paperwork and running around, I was wheeled in to my assigned bed.

The set-up looked impressive at first sight. The hall was air-conditioned lined with foldable cots as beds, with brand new oxygen concentrators by their side. Young helpful volunteers moved around with tea, eatables and food packets. However, in an hour of my stay, I realized there were no doctors to be seen. “They would come if there is an emergency,” a fellow patient assured me. And then my oxygen concentrator blipped. Having experienced a blackout not long ago, I panicked. None of the uniformed volunteers knew how to fix the machine. Thankfully, a patient detached a tube, filled it with mineral water and re-started it. I knew the set-up was what it had been labeled: temporary.

Yamuna Sports Complex covid centre

The phone signals were weak but I managed to message my family about the ‘Covid camp’ condition. The answer was reassuring: the hunt for a proper hospital was still on. An hour before midnight, I got a call from my wife. She was on her way with an oxygen cylinder to shift me to a hospital in Noida, over 15 km from Delhi border. An editor friend had pulled all stops to get a room with oxygen facility. No ambulance was willing to cross the state border, hence she was coming with my brother.

ALSO READ: ‘I Delivered A Baby Girl Amid Covid-19’

The guards and front staff at the hospital told us they were not taking any new patients as there were no beds; even the stretchers had been used as beds in the emergency unit. Another rounds of phone calls and an hour later, I was ushered in. In the few minutes that I took the oxygen mask off, the levels reached dangerously low again. But the expert staff managed the situation in a jiff. For once, since the blackout, I felt safe. I was told by an attendant not to take off the oxygen mask, even while using washroom. I was provided a nasal fork pipe during lunch and dinner.

The travails for the family hadn’t ended yet. They were to arrange Remdesivir injections. Each vial was being sold in black market for Rs 25-50,000 apiece. Then, there were fake injection too in circulation. Somehow these were arranged, two of them from a logistic facility in Manesar, Haryana, some 70 km from the hospital.

Five days, some 150 pills, and two dozen injections later, I was able to walk for a few minutes without the oxygen support. Although steroids fueled my appetite, I lost about 20 pounds. A deep breath took some effort, so did my visit to the attached washroom. I felt tired and my voice came out like a croak. Yes I felt lucky to have just about scraped through.

Upon my discharge after a week’s stay, with much gratitude for friends and family, I felt as if I was stepping into a new world. Travelling home with a precautionary mask on, I rolled down the window. An unseasonal drizzle had brought the temperature down and the fresh air on my face felt good. A song began to play on my lips noiselessly.

PS: During my recovery at home, I kept thinking about thousands of the unlucky ones who could not manage a bed, or arrange the elusive injections; those who stood helplessly to see their dear ones slipping away. It made me choke. I was brought up in New Delhi and was a witness to, as a patient also, its healthcare infrastructure transformed from a few stinky government-run hospitals of the 1970s to private multi-specialty facilities post-1990s. I never believed for a second that an invisible bug could bring this capital infrastructure to its knees in a matter of days. I prayed we had learnt our lessons.

There Will Be Blood

Within hours after the news broke that the dreaded Uttar Pradesh gangster Vikas Dubey was killed in a “police encounter” early on July 10, the media, social media and messaging apps went abuzz. While there were stray voices of reason and rights, one particular message on WhatsApp dominated the popular sentiment thus: ‘Even a ten-year old knows this is a fake encounter. But people in UP couldn’t care less as long as the state is minus one more dreaded gangster.’

It was a redux of the Telangana Police encounter, eight months ago, where alleged rapists of a veterinary doctor were killed. Even though prima facie the encounter was seen as staged, the policemen involved were praised and lauded by the public as heroes.

Thus, the malaise runs deeper than what civil society believes – that extrajudicial killings are the mixed handiwork of police highhandedness, a delayed justice system and people’s disregard for legal loopholes. Fake encounters such as these are symptomatic of the erosion of our judicial, policing, and societal systems. This is a scary prospect because it hurtles society towards anarchy where law is disregarded and people’s rights, including that of alleged criminals, are denied and over-ridden by primitive instincts.

ALSO READ: ‘There Is No Time To Think… You Kill Or Get Killed’

The problem in different states, or regions, emanates from different compulsions; at times there could be public pressure, or plain police highhandedness, or the long-winding legal processes that frustrate the police preparedness. In this column, however, we shall limit our argument to the latest “fake encounter” and Uttar Pradesh criminal justice system.

So, what went wrong in the case of Vikas Dubey?

Clearly, Dubey failed to graduate from crime to community. Most of the criminals who were bumped off by Uttar Pradesh police, from Sri Prakash Shukla (the dreaded contract killer and tender mafia in the 1990s) to Vikas Dubey, had this shortcoming. In contrast are the likes of Mukhtar Ansari, DP Yadav and Raja Bhaiyaa (real name Rahugraj Pratap Singh), who in spite of proven criminal records, entered politics and survived, even flourished.

Their transition from crime to community is not a difficult task in Uttar Pradesh, where power and gun culture is so glorified that it is easy for a gangster to project himself as the messiah or pride of one’s community, caste, region or religion. Flashing a bunch of licenced guns at a wedding procession is considered more prestigious here than owning ten times of farm land in acres.

Add to this the poor policing. There has been numerous recruitment scams in Uttar Pradesh Police. Each time a new political regime takes over Lucknow, new investigations are ordered and a large number of police appointments are cancelled, followed by cases and counter-cases in courts. A majority of rank policemen (the constabulary) is unable to even write down an FIR (first information report) in plain language. An FIR forms the basis of a criminal investigation but in UP, there is a Hindi adage that translates loosely to this: ‘Why do you need to file (an FIR) when you can FIRE a rifle?’

Then, there is the power structure of regional, caste or communal dominance in various belts: in eastern UP, for example, a Jat leader gains political prominence only after he (rarely she) is able to terrify Muslims and Jatavs (two separate vote-banks) or vice versa; in the adjoining belt, a Yadav leader’s rise to power is proportional to how many police personnel or officers he has publicly slapped or humiliated; further west, the script is similar – a small-time criminal takes up arms against either the “oppressive police” or the dominant upper caste lord, and then sets oneself into a Bahubali cast who brooks no opposition. Railways, public works contracts, and extortion money fund these goons. After a point, they either join politics or get killed after losing relevance for their political masters.

Sri Prakash Shukla and Vikas Dubey felt political power was beneath them. Raja Bhaiyya, Mukhtar Ansari and DP Yadav joined politics, even jumped ships to stay afloat and are therefore are alive and operational today. It is not that the latter three had any less criminal cases to their ledger.

ALSO READ: Vikas Dubey Tried To Flee, Killed: UP Police

Raja Bhaiyya was booked under terrorist act, charged with the murder of a DSP, Zia Ul Haq, and was rumoured to have even thrown his rivals to a pond full of crocodiles in his native village. Yet, he was rewarded by the Samajwadi Party with a cabinet portfolio of Jail Ministry (there were 46 criminal cases against him at that time).

Mukhtar Ansari, a dreaded don of eastern Uttar Pradesh who was accused of running numerous extortion and contract rackets, secured political protection with a Bahujan Samaj Party ticket and by winning Mau legislative Assembly seat for record five times. Even when he was expelled from the party after being charged with killing BJP legislator Krishnanand Rai, he formed his own party Quami Ekta Dal which was later merged with BSP as “ghar- wapasi”.

The case of DP Yadav is no less illustrative. Starting as a bootlegger to having monopolized liquor mafia in Ghaziabad (in close proximity to the National Capital) and adjoining areas of western Uttar Pradesh, Yadav joined politics after he was named in a hooch tragedy that took 350 lives in early 1990s. He joined Samajwadi Party, Janata Dal, later Janata Dal (Secular), even Bharatiya Janata Party for a brief spell, and finally Bahujan Samaj Party. He has represented both state assembly and Lok Sabha, and has survived any “encounter”.

What do these stories tell us? That crime and politics make a heady cocktail in Uttar Pradesh. Add police to this and you have an unholy, all-superior trinity which can bypass even the court of law. A state’s job is to establish the rule of law, not by unleashing extra-judicial delivery of justice but with better education, a competent constabulary, transparent platform for public grievance, better administrative presence and a responsive system. But in UP, where the state head himself carries a long-running criminal history — many of which he got dismissed after being sworn in as chief minister — this would be asking for too much.

As of now, the Uttar Pradesh police has publicly displayed its unabashed disrespect for the law. And considering Chief Minister Adityanath Yogi’s “free hand” to the police in dealing with criminals, it is likely to set off another round of extra-judicial killings. The aim apparently is to replace ‘Goonda Raj’ with ‘Police Raj’, mirror images of one another. And unless there is a public movement by the civil society, human rights groups, conscientious citizens and the media to force the government for a course correction, this Police Raj will continue to deal one body blow after another to the democratic system as enshrined in Indian Constitution.

Langar In Coronavirus Times

Langar In The Time Of Coronavirus

It started with ₹20 and has grown into billions now. It is what Guru Nanak, the founder of GurSikhi, called Sacha Sauda. Now during the Coronavirus pandemic, while others have locked down, Gurdwaras around the world have opened up, preparing meals and feeding the vulnerable, the elderly, those at the front line and anyone who is unable to pay for or get the supplies to feed themselves. The number of meals a day are staggering.  During this bleak time, the Nishan Sahib (the Sikh flag) flying proudly at a Gurdwara has become a beacon of hope to millions around the world.

From Amritsar, Delhi, to as far places as United States (notably in California and New York), United Kingdom, Australia and many other countries, Gurdwaras have been busy preparing and distributing langar (meal cooked in a Gurdwara) packets.

Anyone who has been to a Gurdwara knows that langar is a remarkable feature of the Sikhs. There is no charge and there is no feeling of having received charity. In most large Gurdwaras, langar is available from early morning, in some cases as early as 5 am to late night, up to 10 pm in some.

ALSO READ: How Coronavirus Will Change Our Lives

During this Covid-19 crises, preparing the langar, packing them into take away boxes, distributing them safely during this period and delivering them takes up more logistical management than the conventional langar which is offered on the Gurdwara premises. It needs a good number of people to cook, pack, deliver and then wash the cooking utensils. But one thing that can be said for Sikhs is that there is never a shortage of volunteers when it comes to Gurdwara-led service initiatives.

The origin of this goes to Guru Nanak, who was born in 1469. At a young age, he was given twenty rupees by his father to go and buy some goods and then sell them in the village for a profit, in the hope of making him into a businessman. On his way, Guru Nanak met some people who were hungry and wore torn, unwashed clothes.  Guru Nanak spent the rupees for feeding them and buying them clothes. When asked by his father, Guru Nanak said that he had spent the money on Sacha Sauda, ‘true trade’ which was more useful than making money.

“Guru Hargovind Sahib, the sixth of our ten Gurus, said, ‘Garib da muh, Gur di golak’,
which means loosen your purse
strings to serve the needy.”

That was instituted into langar by the second Guru, Guru Angad Dev ji in 16th century and has become a feature of Sikh Gurdwaras since. Today, Sikhs around the world spend billions of their own earnings to run langars in Gurdwaras.

Kulwant Singh, a trustee at Guru Maneyo Granth Gurdwara in Slough, United Kingdom, explains it beautifully: “Among the basic tenets of Sikhism is an edict that says in the times of a crisis, leave everything you are doing and get involved in the service of the vulnerable. Guru Hargovind Sahib, the sixth of our ten Gurus, also said, ‘Garib da muh, Gur di golak’, which means loosen your purse strings to serve the needy.”

“We are not doing anyone a favour.
This is our duty as a Sikh”

-Kulwant Singh, Trustee of Guru Maneyo Granth Gurdwara, UK

The Slough Gurdwara was the first place of worship in the UK to set up a Covid-19 Combat team with a bank of 300 volunteers, of which 100 are active at any given time. These workers toil in the kitchen for preparation of food, manage logistics like packing and distribution of hot meals through vehicles and deliver dry ration across the town and beyond to the needy. They also have a helpline manged by 10 to 15 volunteers who take emergency calls for essential supplies and information.

Slough Gurdwara was the first place of worship in the UK to set up a Covid-19 helpline

“Many of these meals are provided to NHS (national health service) workers at their workplace. We are not doing anyone a favour. This is our duty as a Sikh,” says Kulwant Singh. The team has advertised its emergency numbers via posters and online forums, so anyone can ask for help. In the last week of April, the facility was serving 2,000 hot meals a day and supplying weekly dry rations to over 3,000 families. The expenses are entirely borne by the Gurdwara and the members of the congregation. For the appreciation showered at their work, they respond with a brief and humble expression: Guru Kirpa (Divine Grace).

Thousands of miles away in US, the police were so moved by the unflinching work by the Sikhs during lockdown that they decided to signal their gratitude in a novel way. On April 27, California Police cars came with full sirens blazing and entered the Riverside Gurdwara to the surprise of standers by. The posse circumambulated the place of worship in order to pay respect for the langar packets delivered by Sikhs to the needy and the frontline staff.

“When cops showed up at the (Riverside) Gurdwara, there were multiple emotions among us, but the overwhelming one was of gratitude”

Gurpreet Singh, Covid-19 Coordinator of Riverside Gurdwara, US
Videos of California Police circumambulating Riverside Gurdwara on April 27 went viral

“When cops showed up at the (Riverside) Gurdwara, there were multiple emotions among us, but the overwhelming one was one of gratitude,” said Gurpreet Singh, Covid-19 Coordinator of the Los Angeles-based Gurdwara.

“We had not expected any gesture from anyone; our efforts have been entirely voluntary and motivated by our faith and beliefs. Nor did we expect that news to go viral. However, this did give a sense to pride to our volunteers. They felt good,” Mr Singh added

Meanwhile in India in Delhi too, in recognition of the Sikhs rising to the challenge of Coronavirus lockdown, the city police performed a round of the Gurdwara Bangla Sahib with sirens blazing. Gurdwara Sri Bangla sahib, one of the historic Sikh holy places in India, has been providing some thousands of langar packets a day.

“We did feel proud when even the Prime Minister publicly recognised our efforts on social media with a video of Delhi Police team performing a siren salute to Gurdwara Bangla Sahib. It gave us satisfaction and boosted the morale of our volunteers”

Manjinder Singh Sirsa, President of Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee

The Gurdwaras under Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC) have collectively been providing daily meals to lakhs of people amid an unprecedented lockdown.

WATCH: Siren Salute For Gurdwara Bangla Sahib

Manjinder Singh SirsaDSGMCpresident, explains: “In Delhi, the Sikh community is working at two levels in these difficult times. One is at DSGMC level and the other is at various local Singh Sabhas or Gurdwara level. At DSGM, we feed nearly 2Lakh people daily, provide shelter and food to Doctors and other frontline health workers, and distribute dry rations to about 20,000 poor families on a weekly basis.”

While there is provision of state aid for such relief work, the Gurdwaras have managed it on our own. “This spirit of ‘sewa’ is being across the world. We did feel proud when even the Prime Minister publicly recognised our efforts on social media with a video of Delhi Police team performing a siren salute to Gurdwara Bangla Sahib. It gave us satisfaction and boosted the morale of our volunteers,” says Sirsa.

ALSO READ: Will Humans Turn Better Post-Pandemic?

Gurdwaras were also requested to continue with the langar services by the Jathedar of Sri Akal Takht Sahib. Sri Akal Takht Sahib is the ‘Vatican’ of the Sikhs, the institution that guides Sikhs and Gurdwaras around the world on matters of practice and interpretation. The custodian of the Akal Takht Sahib is called Jathedar.

At a langar, everything is prepared fresh. Anyone regardless of religion, caste, nationality, background or means can eat at the langar. Usually this involves sitting on the floor. The Sikh practice of people sitting together at langar is called pangat. The richest and the poorest sit together, no one feels a sense of receiving charity. No one is questioned and no one is then given a sermon on the virtues of becoming or turning into a Sikh.

That astonishes many people who always see an ulterior motive, like proselytising, behind anything free. But langar is unconditional. Sikhs call it ‘sewa’ (volunteering) instead of Aid or charity, as they consider it a blessing to donate towards, prepare and give away free the Guru’s langar.

Guru Nanak’s langar has now been recognised as one of the most selfless work around the world. Entirely supported by the community, Sikh Gurdwaras do not hoard money or gold but spend it on public services. Almost all the donations are spent on ongoing services such as Langar. Langar equalises everyone as the richest and the poorest sit on the same level.

The great thing about langar is that it takes away the unequal relationship between donor and the recipient. The Sikhs give to the Guru and the Guru gives to the people. By giving it a sacred context, everyone feels privileged to partake in langar. Hence it is not aid or charity but sewa or selfless service.

The philosophy behind langar is that no one should sleep hungry. In India people know where to get a meal without question. All they have to do is find a Gurdwara. The country is blessed with so many Gurdwaras.

In Amritsar, Sri Harmandir Sahib (Golden Temple) around a 100,000 people eat langar every day. About 80% are non-Sikhs. It needs considerable organisation to prepare so many meals on a daily basis. In most large Gurdwaras they have mechanised the process with roti (chapati) making machines. Similar numbers are fed at Gurdwaras in many other large Indian cities. There is hardly a town in India that does not benefit from langar.

Occasionally, there have been criticism within the community of wasting so much money without return. Some Sikhs feel that there is no appreciation of this service and Gurdwaras should consider giving leaflets to encourage conversions or restrict numbers. But unconditional service is precisely what Guru Nanak had started. The vast majority of Sikhs continues to dismiss these pressures and proudly provide langar without making the recipient feel humiliated or under pressure. All that is asked is to consider the rest of humanity as one.

It is truly a remarkable and service on a global scale. The Corona Virus has killed many people. But it has neither dented the spirit of the Sikhs to continue with langar nor has Corona lockdown forced hunger upon people as long as there is a Gurdwara around.

Kabootarbaazi: Inside Details Of India’s Immigration Racket

Raj Kumar is a kabootarbaaz, literally a pigeon handler but now the slang word in northern India for those who organise illegal immigration. People like Kumar make money from kabootars — those desperate to get to promised lands where jobs and social security are available. Here’s what this business is all about, in his own words:

You may call me a trafficker, illegal immigrant pusher or kabootarbaaz, but I take pride in my work. Most of us consider our profession as an instrument to level the playing field and bring an end to economic disparity. My clients are largely from rural Punjab or Gujarat, lured by the glamour of a western lifestyle. They approach us by word of mouth. We never make or help make forged documents.

Our services are procuring a valid visa and ensuring that the client reaches the destination, often with the help of a ‘carrier’. After that, how the banda (colloquial for person, here client) dissolves into the foreign country is not our headache. For European countries, barring the UK, we charge around ₹5 lakh. For the UK, Canada and the US, the fee is double.

The payment is made part in India and rest after the client reaches ‘home’. I specialize in Schengen countries. Most of our clients want to go to Germany as their family circle is there. We have mapped lenient or ‘pliable’ embassies. When we find German embassy ‘uncooperative’ in a case, we get the Schengen visa through countries like Malta (the most preferred one), Czech Republic, Spain, Slovenia, etc.

From there, the banda travels by road or train to reach Germany. There are two tricky parts in this game. Not papers, but visa and the immigration. Documents like passport, IT return and PAN card must always be genuine. Normally, embassies suspect young people leaving India for Europe. So, we need a carrier, with respectable track record, to vouch for the client as an assistant or an employee of the traveller (carrier).

The carrier, depending upon our client could be a failed sportsman, B-grade musician, retired Army officer or bureaucrat who has fallen on bad times. I have personally used all these categories of carriers. For a group, since the stakes are high, we first visit the destination country ourselves and go through their annual event calendar. We mark events like a trade fair, local cricket tournament or an Indian classic music programme.

Now, depending upon the pack, we decide how to plan the ‘departure’. If our pack is an athletic looking young lot, we mark local sports events. Else, a business expo or a local music event. The next target is to search for the right carrier to lead the troupe or team.

Here is how it works: I place an ad in newspapers looking for retired officers who are well travelled, and willing to work as partners in a new venture. I then screen the unscrupulous or desperate ones, luring them with a free return ticket to a foreign country, a brief stay and $500. We then disguise our clients as junior musicians, a sports team, or representatives of an exporters group looking for printing tech, and apply for the visa.

The invites are mostly genuine and the carrier has his/her career record to back the ‘team’. Very few European embassies seek personal interviews. Besides, the language barrier works to our advantage. Only in a rare case is an application rejected.


WHO MAKES WHAT
Agent: ₹5-10 Lakh Carrier: $500-1000 plus return ticket and boarding expenses Immigration Officials: ₹25-50,000 Embassy Officials: Unspecified

The next barrier is the immigration desk. There are many agents who try to bypass this barrier to save loose change. This is foolish. Immigration officials, often drawn from security services, can easily tell a genuine traveler from a kabootar. Their fee, called cutsey (probably derived from courtesy), barely crosses ₹50,000.

If you ever come across a case where illegal immigrants or fraudulent travelers were caught at airport, you can be sure that the agent hadn’t paid the immigration desk. Since immigration desk works under CCTV cameras, last-minute deals are impossible or very expensive.

What happens when the banda reaches destination? I told you this is not our concern. But to your information, mostly they contact their community, hide their passports and find local jobs. These jobs could be night shifts at various 24X7 shops, or in remote areas.

When the support is good, mostly in UK or US, the banda hires a lawyer and applies for asylum and, later, citizenship. Some stay there in jobs to later apply for social security number with the help of rights groups. In that case, Canada is the most benevolent.

In other places, the banda can get away by either bribing the cops or by destroying their passports and preferring a jail term while simultaneously applying for social security benefits with the help of rights groups. The real Ram Rajya for an illegal immigrant is not in India, Sirji. It is in Europe. Try it.

(Name of the travel agent was changed to maintain anonymity)