Another Boat Tragedy Leaves 21 Punjab Migrants Presumably Dead


Family members of Gurjit Singh, who is missing since the Panama boat incident, at Tandi Village near Kapurthala on Monday.

JALANDHAR – The Panama boat tragedy has brought back haunting memories for the families from Doaba who lost their kin in a manner akin to the Malta boat tragedy.

As many as 283 youth went missing while on way to Italy through an illegal water channel 20 years ago.

The kin of the victims and activists, who are pursuing the case, said that nothing had changed since then and they were still fighting for justice in a CBI court. The matter had been marked to the premier investigating agency by none other than former PM IK Gujral.

Balwant Singh Khera, who had formed the Malta Boat Tragedy Mission, said, “The progress of the case has been a great disappointment. Not even a chargesheet has been filed in the past 19 years against the 29 accused. The families have already lost hope and are now not even keeping a track of the case. I am in New Delhi for the case today to move an application to get the case expedited”.

“The only reprieve so far is that three of the accused have been punished in Italy. The Italian government has also passed a budget for setting up a memorial wherein the debris of the sunken ship Yiohan was recovered from the Mediterranean,” he added.

His close aide, Om Singh Sathiana, too mentioned, “The affected families have just got a compensation of Rs 50,000 and too after Khera relentlessly raised the issue at different fora”.

“The Punjab Police has failed to curb illegal immigration by not making stringent laws against the travel agents and were allowing them to go scot free”, said Ram Singh Insaaf, who had then spearheaded the campaign for the victims.

Many of the victims were from Kala Sanghian, Chitti and Bidhipur villages. A film based on the incident too has been screened. As days stretched to years, the families just gave up”, he recalled.

Narain Singh Chitti of Chitti village, who lost his only son in the tragedy, said that it was unfortunate that a similar incident had occurred after 19 years. “It is sad tale of affairs that the travel agents continue to play with the lives of innocent youth of and the Punjab Police is apathetic,” he said.