Tolo News – Afghanistan has over 2.5 Million drug users: Official

Officials said there is a need for more job opportunities for youth in order to curb illicit drug addiction.

Fariba Sadat

Kabul – Kabul Province – Afghanistan, 10 January 2019. Figures by the Ministry of Public Health reveal that Afghanistan has more than 2.5 million illicit drug users, and at least 500,000 of them are addicts.

An official at the ministry said the capacity of rehabilitation centers countrywide has increased to over 40,000 patients, from 2,000 five years ago. The official said that in order to overcome the problem, there is a need to curb drug trafficking.

“These 2.5 million are in 34 provinces of Afghanistan, mostly in villages rather than urban areas,” he said, adding: “Widespread precautionary measures are required to curb drug addiction.” He suggested that job opportunities and facilities for entertainment and sports should be provided for youth to keep them away from drugs.

Kabul has many areas where drug addicts are often seen. One of these drug addicts, Ali Reza, 28, said they have “easy access” to drugs in the city and that he became an addict when he was 13. “I want to be treated. I want to rejoin the society,” he said.

“I have not visited any rehabilitation center because people say that these centers are not providing good services,” said Nawroz, a drug addict. The presence of drug addicts in some Kabul streets has created problems for residents.

“People’s belongings are stolen. People have complaints. They are tired of them (presence of drug addicts),” said Mohammad Hussain, a Kabul resident. “There is a need for proper action by the government against drug traffickers,” said Rajab Ali, a Kabul resident.

Afghanistan has been among the world’s top illicit drug-producing countries.

Reports indicate that poppy cultivation and drug trafficking provides a big income source for the Taliban, mainly in the southern and northern parts of the country. – UAPA tribunal upholds ban on SFJ,Terms SFJ’s activities as a threat to territorial integrity of India

Sikh24 Editors

New Delhi – India, 09 January 2020. A UAPA tribunal headed by Delhi High Court’s chief justice D N Patel has upheld the Indian government decision of banning US based rights group Sikhs for Justice. The tribunal has said that there were enough evidences that prove the SFJ’s ultimate goal is to establish a sovereign Sikh state in Punjab which is against the territorial integrity of India.

On July 10 last year, the BJP led Indian government had banned Sikhs for Justice (SFJ) for five years for openly espousing the cause of Khalistan through “Referendum-2020”.

In August last year, a tribunal was setup for adjudicating whether there was sufficient cause to declare SFJ as an unlawful association under Unlawful Activities Prevention Act.

Terming the activities of SFJ as “unlawful”, “disruptive” and “threat to the territorial integrity of India”, the UAPA tribunal endorsed the Indian government’s decision to ban SFJ.

The Tribunal is right, Sikhs for Justice is a threat to the territorial integrity of India, but I do not understand why an organisation that campaigns peacefully for independence of a state should be banned.
Man in Blue

UAPA tribunal upholds ban on SFJ; Terms SFJ’s activities as a threat to territorial integrity of India

Den Haag (NL) – Fruitweg – Wouwermanstraat

Den Haag NL
Fruitweg – Wouwermanstraat
24 December 2019

Dynamostraat Tram stop
Tram 9 to Scheveningen Noord

Dynamostraat Tram stop

Dynamostraat Tram stop

Evangelical church also present in Belgium

Wouwermanstraat Tramstop
Tram 12 to Duindorp

Wouwermanstraat Tramstop
Tram 9 to Scheveningen Noord

More Netherlands pictures to be published
Harjinder Singh
Man in Blue

OFMI – Tulsi Gabbard Campaign attacks protestors to smother “Foreign Interference” claims

Gabbard Town Hall in New Hampshire degenerates into violence against anti-RSS protestors

Concord – New Hampshire – USA, 10 January 2020. US presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard’s town hall in Concord, New Hampshire degenerated into a brawl as campaign staff assaulted protestors who silently unfurled signs accusing her of whitewashing India’s Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).

The congresswoman was scheduled to speak at the January 8 event, but announced the night before that she was returning to Washington, DC “due to last minute scheduled briefings and votes related to stopping further escalation of war with Iran.”

She participated via live-stream, taking questions from the sparse audience. Moments after local politician Eric Gallagher asked Gabbard’s opinion about ongoing protests in India against the Citizenship Amendment Act, six people stepped to the front holding signs with slogans including “Tulsi: Mascot of India’s KKK”.

Campaign staff immediately charged and tackled one of the protestors. Deputy National Campaign Director Caitlin Pomerantz and volunteer Daniel Martinez were caught on camera hustling protestor Pieter Friedrich out of the event.

“I’m being assaulted,” he shouts as they grab him. “Do not touch me. Let go of me.” As he is shoved out the room, he shouts, “Tulsi Gabbard whitewashes Modi’s fascist forces in India”.

“I’ve filed a police report and hope to press charges,” wrote Friedrich on Twitter.

An analyst of South Asian affairs who recently published a cover article in India’s Caravan magazine regarding Gabbard’s association with the RSS, he also Tweeted, “The people who attacked me have been identified not only as Gabbard campaign staffers, but also as members of her Islamophobic and homophobic Hawaiian cult, the Science of Identity Foundation.

The physical violence they used illustrates SIF’s vicious tactics for suppressing opposition to any of its members who pursue political office, which is a key part of their agenda.”

“We don’t want a repeat of the Holocaust,” Amin Zama, president of the Boston chapter of Indian American Muslim Council, said at the protest. While holding a “Tulsi: Tell Us About RSS” sign, he added, “RSS, which is behind the BJP government ruling India right now, is behind everything. Tulsi gets support from RSS”.

As the town hall ended, Zahir Adil of Justice For All passed out flyers headlined: “Save India From Indian Fascists”. The flyer warned that Washington DC-based organization, Genocide Watch, has issued two Genocide Alerts for India. “RSS based its ideology on the ideas of racial purity preached by German Nazis and fascists in the 1930s and 40s”, claimed the flyer.

“During World War II, the RSS openly supported Adolf Hitler. RSS is a bit like the SS of Nazi Germany, only more powerful, semi-secret, and extremely dangerous.”

“The RSS is a terrorist organization that has slaughtered Christians and Muslims in the streets of India”, explains Brian Wright, an associate director of Organization for Minorities of India.

“Their vision is to turn the country into a Hindu nation where it’s illegal to convert to any other religion. The only thing American politicians should be doing with the RSS is condemning them”.

“It’s heartening to see spreading protests against Tulsi Gabbard’s collaboration with the RSS and the BJP”, remarks OFMI’s Arvin Valmuci. “This is the fourth time she’s been protested over her ties to those extremist groups. We agree with the protestors that Congresswoman Gabbard has a track record of pay to play with India’s fascists.

We call for her immediate resignation and for the Congressional Ethics Committee to launch an investigation into the foreign interference in her congressional campaigns”.

Organization for Minorities of India was founded in 2006 to advance individual liberties of Christians, Buddhists, Dalits, Muslims, Sikhs, and all Mulnivasi people of South Asia by encouraging secularism, progressive human rights, liberation of oppressed peoples, and universal human dignity.


The Print – Why Punjabis leave thousands of toy planes at this gurdwara near Jalandhar

Earlier, the majority of Punjabis looking to emigrate to UK, USA & Canada were rural farmers. But now, students and job-seeking youth have joined them in droves.

Chitleen K Sethi

Talhan/Jalandhar – Panjab – India, 11 January 2020. The Baba Nihal Singhji Shaheed Gurudwara in Talhan is like no other in India. Thousands of devotees visit the shrine, which stands near Jalandhar, almost 150 km away from Chandigarh, with only one prayer on their lips, Waheguru ji, please help me go abroad.

Along with the prayers before the Guru Granth Sahib, devotees make a unique offering, they each leave a toy plastic airplane within the gurudwara precincts. At the end of each day, thousands of these toy planes, collected by the gurdwara, are given away as ‘prasad’ to the young children who accompany their parents to the shrine.

The Talhan gurdwara epitomises the unapologetic desperation of Punjabis to go abroad, be it jobless rural youth looking for options beyond agriculture, young students wanting to use education as a stepping stone to a better future, NRIs’ wives waiting to be called by their husbands, or elderly parents awaiting their visitor visa to the countries their children are settled in.

Talhan lies in Punjab’s Doaba region, also called the NRI belt of the state. Almost every town in this region is teeming with coaching centres for spoken English, institutes that help students prepare for the English language test IELTS, or education consultants promising assured admission in foreign universities. The whole process, including admissions and visa applications, can cost several lakh rupees.

Frustrated youth

Jalandhar resident Satnam Singh, 23, is visiting the gurdwara with his mother and older sister, and justifies the desperation to go abroad by saying: “Where are the jobs in Punjab, or for that matter, anywhere in this country now? There is so much unemployment, and jobs are only a handful.”

“There is sifarish and whatever is left goes in reservation. Despite being educated, the jobs one finally gets are low-paying. For the same job in Canada or USA, one is paid much better,” he adds.

Yuvraj, a 25-year-old who hails from Jalandhar, managed to go to Canada after finishing his Class 12. He is a truck driver there and earns the equivalent of several lakh rupees a month. “I’ve been in Canada for five years.

Had I lived here, I would still be looking for a job, while there, I am already earning quite a lot and managing to help my family financially,” he says.

Yuvraj’s cousin Gurkeerat Singh also left the country after finishing Class 12, and makes good money working as a restaurant manager in New Zealand. “It is not that we don’t miss Punjab or want to leave it, but the fact is that hard work pays there and not here. There is so much frustration among the youth here,” he adds.

Success of the first wave

Kuljeet Singh is a former president of the Punjab Travel Agents Association. His father was among the first to start a travel agency in the state, in 1967. He says the culture of going abroad began with success stories of the first wave of Punjabis who migrated.

“The single most important reason why Punjabis go abroad is to make money. Initially, the emigration was from rural agricultural families who sought various means to go out of Punjab. Their success stories encouraged others to follow suit,” he adds.

The first-wavers, he says, went to the UK, the US and Canada in the 1960s and 1970s, and came back to tell fantastic stories about their lives. They invariably took along a relative, and that his how entire families migrated and settled there.

Kuljeet says that Punjabis are hard-working and enterprising, so even those that started life in these countries doing small jobs went on to set up businesses, made a lot of money, and now own property and even join politics.

Amarjit Singh from Ludhiana, whose son is a property dealer in Canada, adds: “In Canada, UK and Australia, the Punjabi diaspora has made an indelible mark on society. Sikhs are prominent citizens and no government can ignore them. Unlike India, where Sikhs are treated shabbily.”

Tejinder Singh runs a shop outside the Talhan gurudwara, and sees thousands of devotees flock to the holy place to try and go abroad. He explains: “‘NRI’ is almost like a status symbol in Punjab, and everyone here is in awe of NRIs. NRI almost means someone who is a winner, as against those who live here, who are losers.

“Being an NRI has come to mean a man who has managed to make a place for himself in a foreign country, and it is presumed that he is making lot of money, has a big house, lots of servants, good clothes and gadgets.”

State of Indian economy

Professor Rajesh Gill of the Department of Sociology at Chandigarh-based Panjab University says the chief reason for Punjabis going abroad is the state of the Indian economy. “Initially, we had people only from rural areas going abroad, since they had no option beyond agriculture. Now, young boys and girls are going out for good education, followed by jobs,” she says.

“The Punjabi love for consumerism and status symbols has also had some role to play in the exodus.”

Gill adds that Punjabi boys from patriarchal families have never been encouraged to hold blue-collar jobs in the same cultural setting. “But when these boys are out of this cultural environment, they happily accept such jobs. Also, for the same kind of job, the money they make abroad is much more,” she says.

“The relatively new trend is for Punjabi parents to send their young children for education abroad and encourage them to settle there. The educated class in India feels that its children have no future here. There was a time when students from India would go abroad for jobs after their postgraduation or doctorate, but now students are leaving after Class 12,” Gill adds.

Travel agent Kuljeet concurs, saying the ratio of rural emigration to urban emigration was 80:20 until five years ago, but is now around 50:50. Around 1.5 lakh students are believed to go abroad from Punjab every year.

The risk

However, there is a flip-side to Punjabis’ desperation to go abroad. Touts offer several illegal means to send people abroad, but the cost is huge, even if one shells out lakhs to such agents, there is no guarantee of immigration. There are innumerable horror stories of Punjabi youth getting caught at various places in transit.

In November last year, 26 youths were stuck in Russia after being cheated by a travel agent. One of them even died for want of timely medical aid.

“Every day we hear about youths being duped by unscrupulous agents and then getting stuck in Armenia, Germany, Dubai, Mexico. They are dumped there with no money or legal papers. Many are arrested and ill-treated. The government should do something about this,” says Sarabpreet Singh, a Jalandhar resident.

Kuljeet Singh, however, says while the perception in most cases ends up being that innocent youths are “duped” by agents and sent abroad illegally, the youngsters are equally involved.

“The youth are so desperate to go abroad that they encourage the agents to prepare forged documents. When an agent is booked, the person who has given the money for the crime should be booked too,” he says.

Those who manage to reach these countries face a different struggle. They live in hiding until well-settled Punjabi brethren “help out” in regularising their stay, but another hefty fee has to be paid, this time in dollars.

Contract marriages

For the desperate, marriage, too, is a way out of the country. “Contract marriages are generally undertaken among those youth whose immigration and student visa have not worked out,” says Kuljeet Singh.

If the girl is already on a student visa abroad, then she can legitimately call her husband to that country on a work permit. “For the past two years, I have been in talks with girls who are likely to get a study visa to the UK.

The marriage will be a contract marriage. I will pay for the wedding, the travel and also her stay in the UK for one year. Also, I will be paying for expenses of education as well as staying,” says Harpreet Singh from Amritsar. “After one year, the marriage will end mutually, by which time I would have settled in the UK.”

Harpreet says the reason he wants to go abroad is not that he needs money, but because all his family members and many of his friends have already settled in the UK. “I tried for a visa twice but was rejected,” he adds.

Kuljeet Singh says: “Joining peer groups, especially friends who have managed to go abroad, is the new thing. Earlier, people wanted to go out to join families; now, it is for friends.”

Failed effort at streamlining

In 2008, the then Akali Dal-BJP government in Punjab tried to streamline the working of agents and mooted an Act to register all travel agents in the state. It took the government almost six years to implement the Act.

“Currently, there are over 1,550 travel agents registered in the state under the Punjab Travel Professional Regulation Act 2013, and the lists are on the district websites,” says Punjab home secretary Satish Chandra. Another 70 agencies are registered with the Protector-General of Emigrants, Ministry of External Affairs.

However, Jatinder Walia, the current president of the Punjab Travel Agents Association, says: “The number of registered agents is very low. The number of travel agents functional in Punjab is over 6,000.”

Walia says the 2013 Act has not been able to make any effective contribution in stopping unscrupulous agents from operating. “The law failed to take a practical view of the situation. Instead of registering travel agents and demanding a huge fee for the licences, the government should take a nominal fee and register more agents, bringing them under the ambit of this law,” he says.

Walia adds that though the Act has strict provisions for punishment, its entire purpose is defeated by the fact that an agent who hasn’t registered with the government cannot be booked for duping people.

Why Punjabis leave thousands of toy planes at this gurudwara near Jalandhar