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Why so many people from 'model' Gujarat risk money, life, seek to illegally enter US

By Sandeep Pandey* 

Narendra Modi’s United States visit has made big news. In his seventh trip to that country as the Prime Minister he has been able to get himself invited as a state guest for the first time, riding on the back of a proposal from an Indian private company Air India to buy 220 aircrafts from another U.S. private company Boeing.
However, just as Narendra Modi was preparing to travel to U.S. there was news about the Gujarati couple Pankaj and Nisha Patel, who in exchange for Rs. 1.5 crores were promised by middlemen Abhay Raval and Pintu Goswami an illegal entry into the U.S. through a circuitous route of Hyderabad-Iran-Mexico, kidnapped in Iran and released only when a ransom of Rs. 10 lakhs was paid by Pankaj’s brother Sanket to the abductors through the middlemen using the Hawala channel.
In December 2022 Brijkumar Yadav, resident of Kalol taluka in Gandhinagar district died from a fall trying to scale the ‘Trump Wall’ on the U.S.-Mexico border in his attempt to illegally enter the U.S. with his family. His wife fell on the U.S. side of wall and son on the Mexico side.
In April 2023 a farmer from Manekpura in Mehsana district, Pravin Chaudhary with wife Dakha, son Mit and daughter Vidhi was drowned when the boat carrying them capsized in St. Lawrence river trying to illegally enter New York state from Quebec in Canada. In May 2022 in a similar incident 6 men from Gujarat were rescued from capsized boat in St. Regis river also on the New York border.
The most heart rending incident happened in January 2022 when Jagdish Patel, his wife Vaishali, 11 years old daughter Vihangi and 3 years old son Dharmik, hailing from Dingucha village in Kalol, Gandhinagar, froze to death on the road in Manitoba province of Canada close to Minnesota in U.S., again in an attempt to cross over illegally into the U.S., unable to withstand a temperature of minus 35 degrees centigrade. The agent had charged Rs. 75 lakhs per adult and Rs. 25 lakhs per child for facilitating illegal entry into U.S.
Gujaratis are an enterprising people, a number of them with desire to migrate to the U.S., but it is tedious to acquire a passport and visa. Narendra Modi’s wife Jashodaben has failed in getting a passport made for herself. In such a situation a normal aspirant Gujarati falls victim to the network of middlemen who openly advertise their offer to send people abroad in exchange for huge sums of money. The rates have gone up about 1.5 times across the Covid period.
It is surprising that in spite of claims of a successful Gujarat model of development, so many people from Gujarat are willing to risk their money and life to seek illegal entry into the U.S. and other such countries. It exposes the hollowness of claims of growth and an economy doing well. It also points to the abject situation of unemployment. According to an estimate 28.6 crores of youth are looking for employment in this country. It is the desperation which drives people to take risks such as attempting illegal migration.
Not only illegal migration but people taking up foreign citizenships is also on rise. The nationalist government is not able to convince people to stay back. They are fleeing in large numbers. 1,83,741 people renounced their Indian citizenship in 2022 choosing an option to permanently settle abroad. 
In PM’s home state an illegal network of human trafficking, with connections beyond Gujarat and India, exists and thrives
This includes many High Net Worth individuals who do not find atmosphere in India conducive enough for their business, whose number, according to Henley and Partners, a UK based global citizenship and residence adviser, could be as high as 8000.
Secondly, it is shocking how in the Prime Minister’s state an illegal network of human trafficking, with connections beyond Gujarat and India, exists and thrives. Needless to say it has the patronage of authorities. And it has gone on for long, even during the period when Modi was Chief Minister here. 
Equally bewildering is the operation of drug racket in Gujarat. In recent times 56 kg cocaine worth Rs. 500 cr. and 75 kg of heroin worth Rs. 375 cr. have been seized from Mundra port owned by Adani in May and July, 2022, respectively. 
Earlier, 3,000 kg of heroin worth Rs. 21,000 cr. was seized from Mundra port in September 2021. In State Assembly the government has admitted that over the last two years Rs. 4,058 cr. worth of charas, ganja, heroin and other drungs and Rs. 211 cr. worth of liquor has been seized from 25 districts of Gujarat. It almost appears that the entire state is in the grip of human trafficking and drug mafia.
Recent arrests of conmen Kiran Patel and Sanjay Sherpuria, both claiming to have associations with the PM office, paints a picture of lawlessness around the persona of Narendra Modi. While Kiran Patel was impersonating as an ‘additional secretary’ in the PMO and making ‘official’ visits to Jammu and Kashmir, Sanjay Sherpuria has defrauded State Bank of India to the tune of Rs. 349.12 cr.
All these stories stand in stark contrast to the picture of PM presented as a strong leader intolerant of corruption. In reality they create an impression of a highly compromised administration which is dispensing favours to its chosen few with many a murky operations and deals behind the scenes.
---
*Magsaysay award winning social activist-academic, General Secretary of Socialist Party (India)

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