The Government of India has the unenviable task of facing an embarrassment over the ?irregularities?, alleged to have been committed at the Indian Council of Cultural Relations (ICCR) under former director general Rakesh Kumar, and handing over the case to the CBI. The issue would have been under the wrap like so many other things in the government, but for the internationally embarrassing dimensions, wherein the German government protested at what appeared to it to be the Indian government'scollusion in illegal immigration or ?human trafficking?. This has forced the government to wake up and take note of what has been happening right under its nose. The roll of dishonour is headed by an officer of special secretary rank. The ICCR has been accused of accepting money to expedite a bhangra (Punjabi dance) troupe'sempanelment and of clearing its foreign trip with an indecent hurry.
Earlier, whenever any irregularity has been detected, the Indian Foreign Service officers, have been content to have internal inquiries and let off the culprits, after a decent interval, when the heat on the issue was off. A wag, that Indian Foreign Service is, is neither Indian nor Service, because its babus live in foreign ethereal atmosphere and are cut off from the ground realities. First it will be essential to define as to what trafficking in persons is.
Trafficking in persons means recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons by means of threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, abduction, fraud, deception, abuse of power or a position of vulnerability, or giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person, having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation includes, at a minimum, sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or removal of organs.
According to one report, human trafficking is a thriving Rs 1,000 crore annual business in India. The Geneva-based International Organisation for Migration believes that it is a $ 7 billion global business with links to the international arms trade, drugs, prostitution and child abuse. Advantage of the situation has been taken by the corrupt bureaucrats, opportunistic entrepreneurs, including sports, music and entertainment promoters, politicians, organised gangs of smugglers and traffickers, law-enforcement agencies, immigration authorities as well as customs authorities. There have been cases wherein politicians including one in power in Punjab were debarred by the American for life for visiting their country, as they had tried to take a person abroad as being their personal staff, when he was not.
Some prominent cases include that 17 Indians are believed to have drowned in the Morava river dividing the Czech and Slovak republics (June 13, 2001). Twenty-nine Punjabi boys are languishing in Pakistani jails (April, 2001). Indians among 429 illegal immigrants were caught at a construction site in Malaysia (April 24, 2001). Indians among 118 illegal immigrants were detained by the British police (April 24, 2001). Fifty-eight illegal Chinese immigrants suffocated in the back of a truck on their way to Britain (June 2000). Twenty-six Aman-bound migrants were arrested at IGI Airport (May 23, 2000). Fourteen illegal immigrants die in Arizona forest in the USA (2001). About 170 Punjabi boys were killed in Malta boat tragedy (December 25, 1996).
Sources in the Indian diaspora in Greece say that on an average 25,000 to 30,000 new immigrants from India arrive there every year. Of these, nearly 50 per cent move out to other lucrative destinations in Europe. This is apart from a top Punjabi pop singer, Daler, being accused of human trafficking. He, however, said: ?Though my brother is involved in it, he is not the only one. There are a few others, including policemen, doctors and businessmen, who are also involved in human trafficking, visa and passport racket.? About the corruption in administration, he claimed, he has been named in the FIR as he refused to accept the demand of certain policemen to pay Rs. 1.5 crore for keeping his name under wraps. He also added that there were about 18 people, who were involved in the racket of misleading people and luring them on the pretext of sending them abroad as part of the group of the famous artistes.
Earlier, National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) took cognizance of this problems and observed: ?The Commission feels that the existing emigration policies of the government are leading to the illegal emigration and, therefore, it has decided to ask the government to explain the various categories of exemption from emigration check, both the categories of persons and the countries.? There has been literally no action by the government on the above observations.
What has happened in the ICCR is another instance of misgovernance like many others in the past. The only difference is that it has surfaced. A well-balanced and inclusive approach, according to certain standards and ideals, is essential for the proper governance of our country. It is not a hard decision, but any price we pay for good governance is worth it. After all, the government must remember that it exists only for one purpose?to make things better for all people. Says Frederick Douglas: ?Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never has, and it never will.?
Nothing is permanent and nothing is unchangeable as Noam Chomsky says: ?There is no reason to accept the doctrines crafted to sustain power and privilege, or to believe that we are constrained by mysterious and unknown social laws. These are simply decisions made within institutions that are subject to human will and that must face the test of legitimacy. And if they do not meet the test, they can be replaced by other institutions that are more free and more just, as has happened often in the past.?
(The writer can be contacted at [email protected])