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Last Updated: Tuesday, 13 September 2005, 16:29 GMT 17:29 UK
Probe into AWOL police raft team
By Asit Jolly
BBC News, Chandigarh

Police in India's northern Punjab state have launched an inquiry after a team of police rafters went missing from a competition in Colorado in the US.

Four constables failed to return from the US after the Gore Canyon championship last month.

Only one of the team is back at work. He reportedly told superiors the team did not even compete as the waters were "too dangerous".

The officers are thought to have stayed illegally in search of a better life.

Skilled squad

The missing men were members of the seven-man Punjab police team.

They had all been granted official leave for the trip but only Constable Ashwani Kumar is back at work in Punjab's Jalandhar city.

Raft team
Reports say the team did not even compete in Colorado

Two others have sent in written requests for extension of their leave.

But the other four - head constable Sukhbir Singh and constables Lakhbir Singh, Baljit Singh and Narinder Singh - appear to have vanished without trace.

They failed to board their return flight from the US.

Investigating officers said the rafting squad was skilled and had won several national and international championships in India.

State police chief Swaran Singh Virk said he had initiated a formal inquiry and that the alleged deserters would face stern action including dismissal.

Officials said details about the missing men would be sent to the ministry of external affairs in Delhi with a view to initiating extradition proceedings.

This would not be the first time members of the Punjab police have sought a perceived better life in the developed world.

In June this year, constable Santokh Singh, a member of the police wrestling squad for the World Police Games in Quebec, Canada, went missing.

In 2004, a basketball player, head constable Manpreet Singh absconded from a cancelled tournament in Canada.

A senior police officer said desertions were not surprising given low pay for policemen and the dreams of a better life.

He said sports teams and cultural troupes were often used to gain valid visas.

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