The plane crash in Mangalore has once again brought to focus the thriving passport racket based in north Malabar.
The Air India has declared that it will push for maximum possible compensation to the victims of the crash and their relatives. The Civil Aviation Ministry has also announced an interim compensation of Rs.10 lakh to the families of the victims.
Airline sources here said the compensation would be paid only on producing genuine documents that were valid as well. “It is the responsibility of the victims' relatives to prove authenticity to avail themselves of the insurance and other compensation and that will not be an easy procedure,” said an official.
Another official asserted that there had been chances of some of the passengers on board possessing fake passport and the possibility of them getting compensation appeared bleak. So far, no one in the ill-fated aircraft had been officially identified as travelling on forged passports.
Experts are of the view that the fake passport racket is a thriving business in north Malabar. They cite large-scale migration of low-educated and underpaid casual labourers from this region to the Gulf, who are easy targets of the racket.
According to Alex M.Varkey, chief of the immigration wing at the Cochin International Airport, the majority of fake passport holders caught at the airport hailed from the northern districts.
The practice of entering into a job even before getting a valid job visa and illegal overstay in the Gulf often lead to this situation, he added.
Since most of the job-seekers are desperate to find a job in the Gulf, they will not wait to secure a valid job contract which enables the sponsor to take hold of their original travel documents on their arrival there and putting them into hazardous work conditions.
Thus, the labourers will be forced to return home on a forged passport, mostly by substituting photographs and return with yet another one, seeking greener pastures in the desert.
“It is the lack of awareness among this section of labourers that these middlemen tend to exploit, who offer them new passports on paying huge sums,” he said.