First, let us mourn the death of ‘Sonney di Chidi’ (golden bird) that Punjab once was. It was a prosperous state with abundance in resources. Even more promising was the leadership of those times (somewhat upto 1839) in Maharaja Ranjit Singh. After the last heir of Sikh Misls, Punjab has fallen into attrition; the rate of which has assumed large proportions since the Akali-Congress double trouble after the exit of Britishers. Punjab never really recovered after the Maharaja.
Teenagers leaving Punjab
More and more teenagers from Punjab want to settle abroad, be it United States, Canada, UK or Australia – problems in Punjab are growing out of hand for parents who find it easier to sell their holdings in order to secure a future for their children abroad.
Young Punjabis flocking abroad signals a deeper problem, which the government does not wish to acknowledge or tackle – one of unemployment, drug abuse, alcohol dependency, economic infrastructure, lack of opportunities to name a few.
The often repeated regimes of Akali Dal & Congress in the past have killed all hopes that Punjabis could think of their child’s future and separately/collectively have been unable to stop rampant corruption, rising drug addiction or bring industry to the state.
Children as young as 12 years of age are seen to be involved in the drug trade, drugs are openly sold and easily available.
How to Pay for a Green Card
A recent investigative story done by Channel 4 NBCNY’s I-Team revealed how teenagers from Punjab are buying a Green Card in the populous Sikh community of Queens in New York. The borough’s family court is suddenly swamped with cases that insiders say are strikingly similar -hundreds of young Punjabi men with stories of months-long journeys from India across the Mexican border in the hands of paid smugglers.
They arrive in court in a hurry and tell a judge how they were abused by a parent.
Under federal law – SIJS (Special Immigrant Juvenile Status) the court can grant special papers which grants statusto an undocumented person under the age of 21 who claims to have been abused or abandoned.
If the petition is approved and the child becomes a lawful permanent resident, he or she will have access to financial aid for college, be able to work legally, be eligible for some public benefits, and be able to apply for US citizenship five years after becoming a permanent resident.
However; one is to keep in mind that the granting of SIJ status is based on allegations of abuse, abandonment or neglect by the applicant’s parents, a person who receives a green card or even ultimately citizenship through the SIJ program cannot petition for a green card on behalf of those parents. Moreover, SIJ program participants cannot petition on behalf of their siblings until they become U.S. citizens through naturalization.
Number of Indians Seeking Asylum in The United States Rising
In a surprising and unexplained trend, there has been a sudden rise in the number of Indian citizens seeking asylum in the US in 2015 compared to the two previous years. The figures were obtained from the US Citizenship and Immigration Services under Freedom of Information Act by North American Punjabi Association executive director Satnam Singh Chahal.
The data reveals some crucial details. While the number of Indians seeking asylum has increased four times in three years, there is a marginal increase in the number of women applicants.
It is generally men who make the treacherous journey with the help of human traffickers from Moscow into South America, and from there into the US through the Mexican border.
The US authorities refused to give the backgrounds of the applicants or why they sought asylum but in the recent past there have been a number of cases of Punjabis illegally reaching the US shores and then asking for asylum.
Chahal, who had interviewed the men, said that all of them had taken help of human traffickers.”Although the real reason behind the rise in asylum seekers from India is not known, a clear trend is noticeable. The way I read it, there is noticeable increase in their numbers after BJP came to power in Delhi in 2014,” said Chahal.
“The reasons can be different from year to year, but the government should also look at the issues of intolerance in the country.”
Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee president Manjit Singh GK, who has been working for review of the black list of Sikhs said that the rise in asylum seekers could be an embarrassment for the country.
While the Indian government should look into the issue, this could also be a short cut for reaching the US for a better life, not necessarily for political reasons,” he said.
Drug Menace in Punjab
A key poll issue
Drug addiction is a serious problem in the region of Punjab. One of India’s most prosperous states, the fertile land of the five rivers and nation’s bread basket is having to struggle with a serious problem that is now reaching epidemic proportions.
The reasons for widespread drug addiction in Punjab are many: unemployment and frustrated economic expectations are among the main ones. There is also the fact that pharmaceuticals such as pain relieving opioids and sedatives are easily available from chemists; without prescriptions.
According to some, it is the Punjabi culture for heavy drinking and partying as well as the habit of landowners supplying raw opium to farm laborers to encourage them to work harder, that has contributed to the problem. Most rural households in the state are thought to have atleast one addict.
The fact that there is a steady supply of drugs from across the border is another reason. Heroin is smuggled in from Afghanistan and Punjab is a part of the transit route for drugs.
In recent years there has also been a sharp increase in the rate of HIV infections in the state. This is because the rate of injectable drug users (IDUs) is far higher here than in other states. The national prevalence of HIV is 9% but in Punjab this number is in the region of 26%.
It is estimated that four out of ten men are addicted to some or other drug and that up to 50% of those are young farmers. While 15%of those are addicted to poppy husk (known as bhukki), 20% are addicted to synthetic drugs churned out by pharma companies.
It isn’t just people from the fringes of society that are addicted, students from “good families” are often caught in the toils of drug addiction. A study by the Guru Nanak Dev University suggested that 70% of young Punjabi men could be addicted to the drugs that are easily available, particularly in areas close to the borders.
The fact is that a large mass of Punjab is befooled by the Panthic-Image of Akali-Congress. Punjabis must see ‘religion’ and ‘politics’ as separate entities and the political parties miss no opportunity to mix both of them and garner votes.
The Akalis instead of working for the state are busy aggrandizing their bank accounts making the budgetary situation as bad as one can imagine by any stretch of imagination.
Till the time Punjabis stop flocking to other countries there won’t be sufficient resentment in the masses to seek a change. This migration of punjabis to foreign countries provides a vent to the anger of the masses. As long as this migration is not detered, the pressure cooker won’t blow off.
What a shame is that the birth place of martyrs like Shaheed Bhagat Singh is today filled with people who no longer fight for their rights.
The change must come from within…