‘Nothing will move unless cops’ hands are greased’

DUBAI/BANGALORE — Universities and educational institutions in India can cry hoarse about the quality of education they offer at incredible rates, and foreign students can be charmed by the warmth of the Indians, but the men in uniform stick out like sore thumbs, sullying the image of the country.

By Meraj Rizvi

Published: Thu 9 Jun 2005, 10:04 AM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 7:57 PM

This is evident from the number of students, particularly those pursuing higher studies in the IT-savvy cities of Bangalore, Chennai and Hyderabad, complaining about the rough-shod manner in which they are treated by the police, specially those manning the Foreigners Registration Offices.

"Nothing moves till their palms are greased," most foreign students complain.

Sadiq Mohammed Al Hassan, a Sudanese national and a resident of UAE who studied in India, puts it in a nutshell. "The harassment follows the misconception among local government officials in India that most Arab students coming from the Gulf countries are from rich families. The officials try to make that extra buck irrespective of the fact that the papers are in order," he recalls his experience.

Abdulla Yousuf, another Sudanese student who arrived in the UAE last week after completing his Bachelors in Computer Application from Madras University, says: "The Indian authorities lack trust, particularly when it comes to foreign students from Arab and African countries. The educational environment in India is very conducive also because of its competitive fee structures compared to institutions in western countries, but the local government departments make it a bit difficult for us. The Foreigners Registration Office has always been a bone of contention. They derive some kind of pleasure in harassing foreign students by making them run every day to their office to complete registration formalities on entering India."

Referring to the procedure for foreign students having to report to the Foreigners Registration offices within 14 days of entry, Abdulla says the officials often make it a point to delay the registration procedures so that the student finally ends up paying heavy fines along with registration fees which range from $60 in Madras to $75 in Hyderabad.

"The harassment starts right from the airport, first with immigration followed by the Customs officials who are forever looking for either gifts or bribes to let go a foreign student easily without having to undergo the humility of a thorough screening of his baggage," says Hassain.

Hassan, however, believes that these hurdles aside, India is still a safe and stable study destination. "I graduated from a university in Pune a few years ago, and whatever the minor glitches faced by foreign students in India, I still plan to send my children over there for higher education. The opportunity available is vast and the people in India are friendly and do not discriminate," he said.

According to Deputy Commissioner of Police (Intelligence), Bangalore, Krishna Bhat, who is also an authorised officer for foreigners' registration, the delay in issue of necessary clearances to foreign students arose on account of their failure to submit required documents from either the Indian embassies in their respective countries or the Universities where they were pursuing higher studies.

"Problems generally arise on account of the entry of the foreign students into the country on short duration visa. They apply for extension of their visa at the eleventh hour. Extension of a visa is entirely in the hands of the External Affairs Ministry. We can do little about it. The extension of visa should come in about a month's time in the normal course. Occasionally, it is delayed up to four months. But, in 99 per cent of the cases, an extension is granted to the students, and extension of their residential permit is also linked to the extension of their visa," a police official said.

Such problems were faced by foreign students in Mysore too, about 140 km from Bangalore. Commissioner of Mysore City Police Pravin Sood, however, said the police were quite liberal and sympathetic with the problems faced by foreign students.

"Everyday, I meet two to three foreign students, who come to me with some problem or the other. Most of their problems can be solved if they enter the country with longer duration visas," he said.

On problems faced by foreign students seeking exit permit, Sood said police will not hesitate to issue the exit permit if the student holds a valid visa. "It is not possible for the police to issue an exit permit when the visa has expired," he said.

Citing another instance, Sood said a foreign student came to India to take up a course in Delhi University and registered himself with Delhi police for a residence permit. "When he could not find a seat in Delhi University, he came to Mysore and enrolled himself for a course here. When he wished to return to his home country, the student applied for an exit permit with Mysore City Police. The Mysore City police cannot issue an exit permit to a foreign student who was registered with Delhi police," Sood reasoned, adding that police normally are sympathetic to problems faced by students of foreign nationalities.

RK Kapil, Head of Chancery, Consulate-General of India, told Khaleej Times that no complaints about harassment were received by them from any UAE student, but the matter was under investigation.

"We have not received any complaints of harassment from Emarati students going to Bangalore as mentioned in one of the newspapers recently. However, we are forwarding the details as given in the newspaper report to the authorities concerned in India to investigate the matter. They will then take up any remedial measures required," he said. — With inputs from Prerna Suri and our Bangalore Correspondent

Let them see me, says top cop

THE issue of harassment surfaced recently with several foreign students in Bangalore complaining of harassment at the hands of the police. Several students said they had been succumbing to the demands for bribe by the officials at Foreigners Registration Office.

"You can't argue. You have to pay them," says a Palestinian student settled in the UAE.

Most UAE students were averse to discussing the issue in public fora, lest it should boomerang on them.

"What if we are targetted for making accusations against them?" asks a student, while another adds: "Even if our papers are in order, the police come up with some excuse or the other to delay the process. They offer to help us only if we offer them a bribe, which ranges from Rs1,000 to anything."

Bangalore City Police Commissioner S. Mariswamy, who is also the Foreigners' Registration Officer, when asked by Khaleej Times about the allegations, said foreign students were free to bring to his notice any instance of irregularity. "Let them come and meet me. I will look into it," he said.

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