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DINGUCHA, (India): Relatives and neighbours of the Indian family who froze to death near the US-Canada border last week said the father repeatedly failed to secure better paid jobs in recent years, prompting them to take a risky trip aided by an illegal migrant network.

The deaths amid sub-zero temperatures, described as a “mind blowing” tragedy by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, have cast a spotlight on the economic pressures and human smuggling operations in Indian premier Narendra Modi’s home state Gujarat.

Jagdish Patel, 39, his wife Vaishali and their two children aged 11 and 3, were trying to enter the US illegally when they got caught in a blizzard and froze to death in the Manitoba province of Canada on January 19, Canadian and Indian authorities said in a statement.

The victims, residents of Dingucha village in Gujarat, had left their ancestral home this month after they incurred severe financial losses while operating a small retail shop and were unable to make ends meet from their farm income.

“The couple felt they were struggling to run their home and the kids needed better education...they decided to leave India because they failed to find a good job here,” said Sanjay Patel, a cousin of the victim who lives in Dingucha, home to more than 1,200 families.

Despite being a highly industrialised state, thousands of locals from Gujarat leave for the United States and Canada looking for better opportunities. More than 2,000 residents of the village have migrated to the United States in the last 10 years, mainly working at gas stations, malls and restaurants, said Patel who is also a member of the village’s self-governing council.

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