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February 1997, Volume 4, Number 2

India, Nepal and Bangladesh

In mid-January, Saudi Arabia deported 76 deformed Indian girls who had been sold by their parents to traffickers who took them to Mecca to beg, where they ordinarily got $50 to $100 a day, all of which was turned over to "uncles." The traffickers arrange passports and transportation for children to go to beg in rich Arab nations.

One parent reportedly sold his daughter for $800.

The smuggling of Indians to Europe is centered in Punjab, India's wealthiest state. Some 200 travel agents in the four Punjab districts, most of them unlicensed, offer to smuggle Indians to Europe for $2,000 to $3,000 each, with half paid up front and the other half paid after reaching a European country.

Indians typically leave India with valid documents that permit them to enter Egypt, Turkey or East Europe.

An estimated 5,000 Nepali nationals have secured Hong Kong visas, some with fraudulent identity papers, so that they may get a British National Overseas Passport, which allows a half-year stay in Britain without a visa.

Many Nepali men have both forged birth certificates and false marriage certificates with women holding Hong Kong identity papers. The British embassy in Katmandu has received more than 2,000 visa applications between August 1995 and June 1996.

The average salary in Hong Kong is about $1,000 per month compared to the average white-collar salary in Nepal of less than $100 per month.

There are nearly 100,000 persons interned in eight camps in east Nepal that Nepal says are Bhutanese nationals. Bhutan says they are ethnic Nepalese migrant workers who have voluntarily returned to Nepal from Bhutan. Nepal accuses Bhutan of "ethnic cleansing."

In December 1996, India and Bangladesh reached a new 30-year agreement on how to divide the water in the Ganges (Padma in Bangladesh) River. In 1975, India built the Farakka dam 11 miles from its border with Bangladesh and diverted water from the Ganges to India's Hugli River to supply Calcutta.

India's water diversions are blamed for environmental damage that spurred rural-urban migration within Bangladesh and the migration of Bangladeshis to India. Bangladesh hopes that it will be able to use the additional water to grow about four million acres of crops during the dry season from January to May.

Kenneth J. Cooper, "Bangladeshis Hope Pact Will Ease Flood-or-Famine Existence," Washington Post, December 21 1996. Chandra Banerjee, "Indians Send Children Out To Beg Ramyata Limbu," Associated Press, January 20, 1997. "Nepal-Migration: Fake Identities in Search of Prosperity," Inter Press Service, August 7, 1996.