Punjab:The indian ‘American Dream’ Meets a Scam in Bali

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Like millions of other Indians, Sukhjinder has always dreamed of immigrating to the United States in search of a better life.

Now he shudders at the thought.

“I get goosebumps when someone talks about going abroad. This decision ruined everything for me,” said the 35-year-old, who is only known by name.

Mr. Sukhjinder, a resident of Tarn Taran, a small town in Punjab, is one of at least 150 young men and women in the northern Indian state who have been swindled

by a gang that extorted large sums of money in exchange for false business promises to start their business in the United States.

police say the gang, all of whom are Indian, transport their victims to new places like Bali, Indonesia, and hold them hostage for days for ransom from their families.

said she suspects the gang chose countries like Indonesia and Singapore as their base because Indian nationals can get cheap flights and visa-on-arrival facilities in those countries.

Besides Punjab, men from three other states — Haryana, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh — have also been targeted, they added.

police said they arrested the wife of “ringleader” Sunny Kumar and her father last year and recovered 15 million rupees (US$182,000; £147,000) from their home in Punjab.

So far, eleven people had been arrested in reference to the scam, they added.

But Kumar and other gang leaders are still on the run, probably hiding in Indonesia. Police say they are in contact with the Indian government to find out her whereabouts.

The arrested person did not provide any information.

a source has reached out to Indonesian police for comment and the story will be updated once they respond.

Gang, which has been active for more than two years, mainly preyed on young but poorly educated people in Punjab.

“Members approached their victims with promises to bring them to the United States via Mexico,” Mohali City Police Commissioner Gursher Singh Sandhu told a source.

“They took their clients out of the country and then made them call their families and lie about arriving safely and demanded that the family pay the gang fees,” he said.

members of the Punjabi gang then went to collect money from the families of the victims. Sandhu added that The gang will either abandon the victims or send them on a flight back to India.

Mr. Sukhjinder said he first contacted Sunny Kumar in October after a relative told him she could help him come to the US.

Kumar told Mr. Sukhjinder that he would take him there if he paid 4.5 million rupees.

The plan was for Sukhjinder to go to Bali first, from where Kumar and his men would plot a course for him to Mexico and then the United States.

Mr. Sukhjinder said he trusts the offer because Kumar sent him a ticket to Bali with no prepayment.

Boarded a flight from Delhi to Bali on October 29. From there, things took a sinister turn.

Mr. Sukhjinder claimed he was held hostage at an undisclosed location for 23 days. “I was so beaten up I had no choice but to agree to lie to my family.

said he was allowed to return to India after his family paid Rs 4 million to agents.

This is not the first time Indians have taken desperate measures to immigrate to the United States.

Thousands of Indians dream of settling in other countries, especially the United States, in hopes of a better life. Some even fall prey to smugglers to achieve their goals.

The US government figures show that 19,883 Indians were arrested for entering the country illegally in 2020. That number rose to 30,662 in 2021 and 63,927 in 2022.

Experts say that while trying to get out of Canada, many families make their way to Mexico,

where they are contacted by smugglers who force them to make the dangerous journey across the border. Many die along the way.

Four members of an Indian family were found dead in a swamp near the Canada-US border last week.


In January 2022, the bodies of another family of four were found frozen to death near the border.

In 2019, the death of a six-year-old Punjabi girl who illegally entered the United States from Mexico with her mother sparked outrage in India.

Ranjit Singh Ghuman, a Punjab economist, says the situation is particularly worrying due to the lack of jobs in the state. Indian Economic Survey data shows that the unemployment rate was 7.2% in 2021 and 2022.

“Young people here are frustrated and desperately looking for a way out of a boring life. So they make such extreme decisions,” he said, adding that the government should increase investment to create more jobs.

Vishal Kumar, another gang victim, agrees: He said it was desperation that prompted him to take this step.

After completing the 10th grade, Mr.Kumar needed to drop out of school. He said he’s been looking for work ever since.

“When I heard about this gang, I thought I could escape this life and build something from scratch in another country. But in the end, I had to pay to save my life,” he said.

The Punjab government introduced new laws to prevent human trafficking and cracked down on bogus travel agencies operating in the state.

In February, Jalandhar district authorities revoked the licenses of thousands of immigration consultants, international ticket agents, and English learning center owners over allegations of fraud.

But Mr. Ghuman says that bogus agents still operate freely in the state despite strict regulations. “Court processes are often lengthy and complex, and the victims are mostly uneducated peasant farmers,” he said.

Back in Tarn Taran, Mr. Sukhjinder is worried about his future.

“I sold my farmland and borrowed money to go to the United States. Now the lender is asking for a refund and I don’t know what to do,” he said.