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Appointing sensible immigration officers

November 11, 2012

IT is a matter of great relief that after all this delay the federal cabinet has finally ratified the visa accord with India, though it fails logic as to why ratification was required since the accord had been signed after a great deal of deliberation on all levels.

Anyway, it is better late than never.

I would urge that intelligent, courageous and sympathetic officers are posted in the immigration section on the border checkposts and airports so that they do not cause unnecessary inconvenience by their lack of imagination and rash interpretation of rules and by failing to exercise their discretion intelligently and honestly.

My point will be clearer by my experience which I would like to share with the readers. I was married in India in 1961 and wanted to go to New Delhi for that purpose, but my mother could not attend my marriage because a careless officer in the Indian deputy high commission in Karachi had committed a mistake while granting her visa. Different routes were shown in the visa as stamped on the passport and in the visa form.

Our immigration officer at the Lahore Railway Station did not allow her to board the Amritsar-bound train because her visa form gave the point of entry as ‘Delhi by air’, whereas the visa stamped on the passport showed the point of entry as ‘Wagah by train’. It was apparent on the face of the record that this was a clerical mistake on the part of high commission staff because the visa form of my mother had clearly given Wagah as the point of entry.

An intelligent and sympathetic immigration officer would have realised that the different routes given on the passport and the visa form were the result of bona fide mistake on the part of the staff of the Indian deputy high commission at Karachi and would have ignored it. But the immigration officer whom we encountered that day at the Lahore Railway Station was dull-minded and could not draw appropriate conclusions and could not intelligently exercise his discretion.

He asked my mother to go back to Karachi and get the mistake rectified by the deputy high commission. We explained that my marriage was scheduled the next day in New Delhi and it was just impossible for her to go to Karachi to get the mistake corrected. But all our pleas were ignored.

We also explained that my mother had a valid passport which authorised her to go abroad and it was for Indian border authorities to decide whether they would let her enter India under those circumstances or not and that it was open to my mother to come back by the next train if she was not allowed to enter India.

Nothing worked. Eventually, my mother was left at the Lahore railway station.

This would not have occurred if our immigration officer was intelligent and sympathetic enough. Therefore I request the authorities concerned to post intelligent and efficient officers at checkposts and airports who can use their discretion properly. After all, such clerical mistakes will continue to occur in the future as well and they must be tackled intelligently.