How Nepali migrants are duped by travel agents and get stuck in India

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In most cases, individual migrants agree to leave via India because they are unaware that such migration is considered illegal by the government.

The national capital has become home to many Nepalese agents who leave migrant workers in a lurch after promising them a lucrative job abroad. Four months ago, Bir Bahadur who was working in a recruiting firm in Nepal was deceived by a fellow agent from Delhi after the agent took around Rs one crore for sending 14 migrant workers to Russia and Macau.

“I worked in Nalco International in Nepal. I was duped by Uday Rana in Delhi who promised me he would send workers from Nepal. They were to be sent to Russia and Macau for work. He took approximately Rs 1 crore (in total) for documents, stay in Delhi, and air fare for these workers,” said Bahadur.

Blindly trusting Rana, Bahadur sent these workers to Delhi to fly abroad. However, Rana sent these workers to different metropolitan cities like Mumbai, Bangalore and Kolkata where they stayed for seven months on their own money, falsely believing that they would be sent to Russia and Macau soon. Months passed by but nothing happened. When the workers tried contacting Rana, his number was not reachable. The man had fled. The workers came back to Nepal and filed a case against Bir Bahadur because he had recruited them from their village.

It’s been six months and Bahadur has been living in Delhi to catch Rana. Bahadur’s company has closed and his house has been mortgaged. He spent 9 days in police custody.

“This agent (Rana) has three wives in Nepal, Delhi and Silliguri. I met his wife in Rohini when I came to Delhi. She gave a fake cheque of Rs 7 lakh to me to suppress the matter for the time being,” he said.

“Bahadur is himself an agent. One agent is set in Nepal and the other in Delhi to bring the workers to Delhi. In this case, the agent of Nepal (the middle man) might have not got his commission for which he has been lamenting. These agents also marry women in different cities to get more female customers. These days, women agents are very common. Their wives have networks with other women who want to work abroad and they are befooled by these agents. Mostly, they are pushed into prostitution,” said Ramesh Khadka who works with Akhil Bharat Nepali Ekata Manch.

Forty-two-year old Prem Bishi is from Butwal, a small city in Nepal. He came to Delhi in 1995 for work. Last year, he was working in a company in Gurgaon when he came in contact with a colleague who lured him for working abroad. “He told me that he has an office in Mahipalpur and asked me to visit. He convinced me that I will get $1,000 per month as a security guard in Seychelles. There were four of us, including my relatives and friends, who wanted to go. He promised us that he would send us abroad within a month and charged Rs 2.5 lakh each for the same. He gave us all travel documents which were later found to be fake,” said Bishi.

Since, then he has not been able to get a hold of the agent. In most cases, individual migrants agree to leave via India because they are unaware that such migration is considered illegal by the government. They also don’t know that recruitment agencies are not liable for their safety and well-being as would have been the case if the migrants departed from a Nepali airport.

Ramesh Khadka explained that these agents collude with the officers at airports in India so that they are not caught. “They give bribes to immigration officers for permitting them to leave the country. They bribe them because the workers require an NOC from the Nepalese government, but they don’t have it because they go through illegal channels. The Nepalese embassy in Delhi also doesn’t issue the NOC because the worker doesn’t have permission from the Nepalese government. In the absence of an NOC, agents bribe immigration officers at the airport,” he said.

Most of the migration happens via Delhi because Nepal has stringent laws for the workers. Going abroad via Delhi is also inexpensive. The agents are known to issue fake Indian passports to gullible, would-be migrants and they prefer to send the workers via India since the Indian authorities are less likely to detect fake Nepali documents. The migrant workers along with the agents or their assistant cross India via Birganj, Gaurifunta, Banbasa, Krishnanagar, Sonauli borders hiding their original identities.

Women migrant workers are made to pose as wives, daughters or sisters of the agents so that they are not caught by the Nepal army or the Indian police. Migration of women in the unorganised sector to Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE is banned by the Nepalese government. Consequently, going to these countries via India seems to be the only alternative for them.

Ironically, the Nepalese workers who become agents are those who have suffered earlier. “Most of the time, the Nepalese migrant workers who had been deceived abroad become agents themselves. They don’t want to return to their village in Nepal because of the shame that they have been deceived and suffered monetary loss. They then settle in Delhi only. They can’t go back to Nepal because they don’t have original documents,” said Khadka.

(Originally published in the DNA, India.)

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