US-based social activist urges Indian govt to restore multi-year multiple entry tourist visas
As India opened its doors for vaccinated foreign tourists after over one-and-a-half years of travel restriction due to COVID-19, New York-based social activist Prem Bhandari is calling on the Indian government to restore the already issued and valid multi-year multiple entry tourist visas to ensure ease of travel for tourists.
India from Monday allowed individual tourist travel and is issuing the first five lakh foreign tourist visas free of cost. The newly-issued tourist/e-tourist visa will be a single entry visa for 30 days.
According to an advisory on the website of the Indian Consulate here, the existing valid e-Tourist Visa/regular paper Tourist Visa issued before Oct 6, 2021, will continue to remain suspended and travel on such visas will not be permitted.
Bhandari, who is the Jaipur Foot USA Chairman, called on the Indian government to allow travel for foreign tourists on their existing tourist visas, which are issued for five and 10 years, saying this will ensure that the tourists do not have to go through the additional burden of applying for new visas. It will also lessen the burden on authorities to issue new visas.
“Foreign tourists with valid 5, 10-year multiple entry Indian visas should be allowed entry into the country. If required, authorities can stamp their visas with limited stay periods when they reach India. This will be much more convenient and hassle-free than the new rules requiring tourists to re-apply for the single entry 30 day visa,” Bhandari told PTI.
“Even though the travel is now open, people still are not travelling to see the Taj Mahal or the Qutub Minar. Those travelling now are essentially people who want to meet their parents, families, friends whom they have not seen in nearly two years because of the pandemic,” he said, adding that the government should restore the multiple-entry tourist visas soon to ensure ease of travel for all those waiting to meet their loved ones in India.
Bhandari said he will make this request to the Ministry of Home Affairs and expressed hope that it will look into this matter and take measures that will benefit the travellers. He noted that travel is now allowed to India on other other valid visas but the multiple-entry tourist visas are still suspended.
He cited the example of a wheelchair bound senior citizen woman who was travelling to India but who had to be returned from the airport as she did not have the new single entry visa.
Bhandari pointed out that the woman had got her tourist visa renewed only recently in 2019 and she felt that she could travel on it without any difficulty till 2029.
“Imagine the plight of such travellers who have to return from the airport. Apart from not being able to go ahead with their travel plans, they also face added distress of making alternate logistics arrangements,” he said.
Bhandari has been taking up the cause of OCI (Overseas Citizen Of India) card holders for the past several years and also the issue of easing travel during the restrictions imposed amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
He expressed gratitude to Prime Minister Narendra Modi as well as the home and external affairs ministries for easing and lifting several regulations related to OCI cards, making travel easy and seamless for card holders from across the world at a time when people were facing hardships due to COVID-related restrictions.
Bhandari noted that this move benefitted about six million OCI card holders worldwide.
India began allowing fully vaccinated foreign tourists to enter the country on regular commercial flights on Monday, in the latest easing of coronavirus restrictions as infections fall and vaccinations rise. Tourists entering India must be fully vaccinated, follow all Covid-19 protocols and test negative for the virus within 72 hours of their flight, according to the health ministry.
This is the first time India has allowed foreign tourists on commercial flights to enter the country since March 2020, when it imposed one of the toughest lockdowns in the world in an attempt to contain the pandemic. Fully vaccinated tourists on chartered flights were allowed to enter starting last month.
(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)