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Was IELTS co-owner IDP operating illegally in Punjab?

Source: Green Chameleon via Unsplash

IDP Education was forced to close its offices temporarily in Punjab due to licencing issues last week amid a government crackdown on unregistered migration and travel agents in the state.

One of the biggest international student recruitment companies and the co-owner of IELTS (International English Language Testing System), IDP Education could have been operating illegally in Punjab – a north Indian state, until last week.

According to reports in the Indian media, IDP Education India had to cancel an event in Ludhiana on 16th September following complaints that the company was operating without a licence in Punjab.

The Punjab government enacted a law in 2013 making it a criminal offence to operate IELTS coaching, student recruitment or immigration consultancy related businesses without obtaining a licence from the state government.

The administrative head of Jalandhar District of Punjab told SBS Punjabi that he received “oral complaints” about IDP Education.

“Some people did bring it to my notice that they did not have a licence. But later on IDP showed us the document and we are satisfied with it,” Varinder Kumar, Deputy Commission of Jalandhar said.

SBS Punjabi has learned that IDP Education was issued a licence just last week, on 18 September 2018, after the company had to close some of its offices in Punjab following a crackdown by the law enforcement agencies against unlicensed businesses that saw nearly two dozen business operators arrested. IDP Education was not affected by the law enforcement action against travel agents. 

The company says it has all the necessary licences to operate in the state.

“IDP Education has the necessary licenses to operate in Punjab and all our offices are again fully functional after a brief issue last week,” the company’s South Asia Regional Director Piyush Kumar told SBS Punjabi.

“IDP is committed to complying with all global and local laws in every country we operate in,” Mr Kumar added.

Under the state government’s law regulating the IELTS coaching, overseas travel, student recruitment and immigration consultancy-related businesses, it’s imperative to register with the government and obtain a licence before start operating a business.

While the company has been operating in Punjab for a number of years, it received the requisite licence on 18th September this year. When questioned whether IDP Education had a licence before the current one issued last week, Mr Kumar did not delve into it.

“IDP has all requisite licenses to operate in Punjab and remains committed to operating to the highest of standards globally and in each country and province therein as applicable,” he said.

The law

Under the law, all the operators are required to display their licence number on any advertisements issued by them.

IDP Education said their website is being updated this week to reflect their licence number.

Overseas education, IELTS and immigration consultancy is a multi-million dollar industry in Punjab, where more people are inclined to having a life in developed countries than any other state of India. But this proclivity of the people of Punjab made them highly susceptible to falling prey to fraud.

In order to check the incidences of visa fraud and human trafficking, the Punjab government passed the law in 2013 to regulate travel agents in the state.

In May this year, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh ordered a major crackdown against illegal travel agents.

In a memo issued by the state’s Home Affairs Department, all the district heads were informed that the government was “deeply concerned” about the illegal activities of travel agents who were defrauding people.

Acting on the CM’s order, the police arrested several unregistered travel agents, at least 20 in Jalandhar district alone.

Since the passage of the law, over 2,500 cases have been registered against travel agents in Punjab.

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