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8 Mar, 2024 12:16

New Delhi cracks down on human trafficking network luring Indians to the front line

The Indian Foreign Ministry earlier confirmed the death of one of its citizens in the Ukraine conflict zone
New Delhi cracks down on human trafficking network luring Indians to the front line

India’s premier investigative agency has uncovered a human trafficking ring that sent young Indians to Russia with promises of lucrative employment opportunities, the country’s Foreign Ministry stated on Friday.  

The development was earlier reported by the Times of India newspaper. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is currently conducting raids in a number of locations including Delhi, Trivandrum, Mumbai, Ambala, Chandigarh, Madurai, and Chennai, and has initiated legal proceedings against several visa consultancy firms and agents implicated in the scheme, the report added. 

“Strong action has been initiated against agents and unscrupulous elements who recruited them on false pretexts and promises. The CBI yesterday busted a major human trafficking network conducting searches in several cities and collecting incriminating evidence. A case of human trafficking has been registered against several agents,” the Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement. 

People were allegedly lured to Russia with promises of lucrative employment and assurances of safety and no mention of involvement with the armed forces. The agent responsible for recruitment reportedly charged each individual a hefty 350,000 rupees ($4,230) for facilitating their travel to Russia. Moscow has not commented on the developments.

This revelation follows the tragic death of a 30-year-old Mohammed Afsan from Hyderabad, who was allegedly misled into joining the Russian army and lost his life in the conflict in Ukraine. The Indian Embassy in Moscow confirmed his death on Wednesday. The embassy stated on X (formerly Twitter) that it is in touch with the Russian authorities and is making efforts to send the deceased man’s remains to India.

Earlier this week, a video emerged in the Indian media showing seven Indians wearing military jackets seeking New Delhi’s help in securing their release from Russia. The video shows an individual identified as Gagandeep Singh from the northwestern state of Punjab claiming the group had visited Russia as “tourists” and met an “agent” who took them “on tours of the country.” In his version of events, the group ended up at the border with Belarus and left on a highway as they were unable to pay more money for visas. Then, the person claimed, they were apprehended by police and handed over to the Russian authorities. The date and location of the video remain unclear.

India’s Ministry of External Affairs last month released a statement cautioning about “inaccurate reports” in the media regarding “Indians with the Russian army seeking help for discharge.”

“Each and every such case brought to the attention of the Indian Embassy in Moscow has been strongly taken up with the Russian authorities, and those brought to the attention of the Ministry have been taken up with the Russian Embassy in New Delhi,” the statement read. It also noted that several Indians have already been discharged, without providing any further details. Later, the spokesperson for the Foreign Ministry revealed that around 20 Indians remain stranded. In another statement, the foreign ministry urged Indians to “exercise due caution and stay away from this conflict.”

On Friday, the ministry reiterated the appeal to Indian nationals to “not be swayed by offers” made by agents. “This is fraught with danger and risk to life.”

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