Thriving black market for Indian passports

There is a growing demand and market for everything Indian abroad and this includes unfortunately illegal sale of unused but valid Indian passports, Prabhu Dayal, Consul General of India in New York has said.

Updated: May 02, 2011, 17:53 PM IST

Atlantic City: There is a growing
demand and market for everything Indian abroad and this
includes unfortunately illegal sale of unused but valid Indian
passports, Prabhu Dayal, Consul General of India in New
York has said.

"The Government of India viewed the matter seriously
as it came to its notice that several Indians who had acquired
citizenship of other nations such as the US, continue to
retain their Indian passport, which is illegal, and even sold
it for a premium to enable the purchaser to travel to India,"
Dayal said while addressing a two-day annual convention of
Federation of Andhra Pradesh Medical Graduates in USA (APMG),
on Saturday.

India does not have biometric system such as using
fingerprinting and taking photograph of visitors at
immigration counters in international airports and this makes
it easy for the purchaser to enter India illegally using some
other`s passport.

Often, the international flight arrives at wee hours
and those manning the immigration counters swipe the passports
to check the names against those in black listed category or
wanted by law enforcement agencies.

There is no system to check whether the passport
belongs to the person standing in front of them if the photo
matches.

In some cases, it has been found that some
unscrupulous persons had even renewed their unused Indian
passports in the Indian missions while simultaneously holding
US passports and travelled back and forth using both the
passports alternatively.

US do not subject its citizens to biometric tests
while Indian passport holders return home without much hassle.
The Government of India has plugged all the loopholes
now.

The Ministry of External Affairs had made it mandatory
last year for Indians abroad who had acquired citizenship of
other countries to surrender their Indian passport, get it
cancelled and collect renunciation certificate from the
missions to become eligible for services offered such as
Indian visa, Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) card or
People of Indian Origin (PIO) card and even attestation of
documents.

Dayal said there was a serious security breach last
year when the Indian intelligence agencies found out the role
of a stolen Indian passport in the killing of Hamas leader in
Dubai. "It`s unfortunate that some Indians who were
benefited by Indian education and experience to go abroad for
a comfortable living are believed to have sold their old
passports to anti-social elements for a price, causing a
threat to the peace and security of their motherland," Dayal
said.

There was also manifold increase in Indian-origins
applying for OCI and PIO cards for hassle-free travel and
there were complaints of delays and waiting time causing
inconvenience to travellers.

Dayal said New York Consulate issued on an average 600
visas, 150 OCI cards and 80 PIO cards a day and all the
services have since been outsourced to a private agency in New
York.

Referring to delays in the issue of OCI cards,
dubbed as Indian green card, that puts a person of Indian
origin on par with Indian nationalities except contesting
elections, he said often the delays are caused by incomplete
paperwork.

The Government of India issues the OCI cards to
Indians living abroad except in countries such as Pakistan,
Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.

The application for OCI cards though collected by
Indian missions abroad are sent to Ministry of Home Affairs in
New Delhi for security clearance and verification and with the
increase in the volume of applications from all the major
posts, there seem to be delays ranging from two weeks to four
weeks.

There is however no delay in the issuance of Indian
visas.

Dayal asked organisations such as APMG to organise
visa camps where diplomats from Indian Consulate would clarify
and assist members in completing paper work to apply for OCI
cards.

PTI