I wrote to Prof Pandit today and he emailed the following matter.
His email goes like……..
“Thank you for doing a useful service to the community.
I would like you to read my update too:
Updated Sept 17, 2009
OCI RULES CAN BE CHANGED
Following my e-mail message (a copy is attached below) about my aggravation at the Kolkata airport over the OCI card, I have received about 300 responses. I am absolutely overwhelmed and thankful to all those who have written. I had no idea how deeply the Indians all over the world feel about this issue. Most people were thankful to me for sharing my story so they can learn from my bad experience. The majority, about 90% of the responders was outraged at the lack of common sense and common courtesy of the immigration officials at the Kolkata airport. More than a dozen people have narrated their own horror stories, very similar and even worse than mine at airports in India when they arrived with an OCI card only, these are really heart wrenching stories involving small children and the whole family members undergoing incredible hardships. Others were alerted at the last moment by the airlines officials at the departing airport in the USA about the need to carry the visa sticker that may be in their old passport. Some were surprised that I had the problem because they have gone to India with just the OCI card and they were allowed to enter India without having to show their visa. Some assumed that the problem may be at the Kolkata airport and probably the corruption is rampant there. They suggested that the officers there might be looking for a bribe. Many were still confused about the rules of the OCI and have asked me for advice. Many others narrated the appalling treatment they have received at the various Indian consular offices.
About 10% of the responders said I got what I deserved at the Kolkata airport for not reading rules of the OCI card and for not following the rules strictly. They thought the officers were just doing their duties.
Some especially from England and Canada told me that they have PIO (Person of Indian Origin) cards and had never had to show their visa at the Indian airports. And the OCI is supposed to be the upgraded version of the PIO card. Go figure.
One person has written that for a family of five (three children) under the current OCI rules he has to carry fifteen travel documents when going to India (five old passports, five current passports and five OCI cards)
I am thankful to all who have taken the time to write to me.
I know it was my mistake for not taking my old passport with the visa sticker with me and I will never make the same mistake again; the main purpose of my mail was to warn my friends not to make the same mistake that I made.
But, then my friend Dr. Dinesh Patel from Boston pointed out to me that the rules CAN be changed and the bad/confusing rules SHOULD be changed. I think that is a great point. Rather than just accepting and following the bad rules and thus perpetuating them, we should try to change the bad rules. In addition because of the confusing name of the OCI and the false buzz about the “Dual Citizenship” many people make the same mistake as I did. When so many people make the same mistake in spite of the rules, then may be the system needs to be fixed. Confusing rules of OCI needs to be changed. The bad rules can only be changed if there is enough pressure from the public to the politicians and the civil servants. .
I believe, just like the persons holding a PIO card the OCI card holders should also be allowed to enter India without having to bring the old visa sticker every time. The fact is, whenever any one is granted his/her OCI card, he/she is thoroughly vetted and only then the OCI card is issued along with a life long visa sticker. Both go hand in hand. You cannot get an OCI card without a life long visa. I know that in spite of the puzzling name (Overseas CITIZEN of India) the OCI card is not a passport, right now we can not have both American (or Canadian or UK) passports as well an Indian passport But, the OCI card can be and should be the visa substitute. As far as the entry requirement to India the OCI card could act like the US Green card. Once you have it there will be no need to carry a separate visa ever.
When an individual has a US Passport and an OCI card, production of a visa should not be insisted upon, because, the evidence of a valid visa is implicit in the OCI card, which may be deemed to be a certification higher than the visa itself.
The other problem is the utter lack of common courtesy and competence at the various Indian Consular Offices. I have received more than 15 mails that detail their dreadful experiences at various Indian Consular Offices. These Consular offices are amateurish and incompetent. I myself had a horrible time trying to get my OCI card in Chicago. When I complained, there was no response. I can not even think about going back there to get my visa sticker transferred from my old passport to my new one, and what about when I get yet another new passport? This is a disgrace that the officials at the Consular offices are not trained to be courteous to their customers like real professionals.
We need to bring pressure on the politicians and civil servants to simplify the procedure and let the OCI card be the visa substitute. Please send this mail to others once again and may be some one knows an important person who will understand the problem and solve it. That will make travel to India a joy and not stressful. We also need to make the Indian Consular offices more “Professional”.
I am attaching a copy of my original e-mail:
MY DUAL CITIZENSHIP WOES: MY RECENT EXPERIENCE WITH THE IMMIGRATION DEPARTMENT AT THE KOLKATA AIRPORT AND THE LESSONS I LEARNT
My advice to all my friends who hold an OCI (Overseas Citizen of India) Card and those who aspire to get one.
I am an American citizen. I also carry an OCI card (Overseas Citizen of India) since 2007.
On Saturday, June 20, 2009, I arrived at the Kolkata Netaji Subhas Airport from Detroit via Singapore, by Singapore Airlines (SQ 516) at 10:30 P.M.
I presented myself to an Immigration Officer (Mr. Biswas) for immigration clearance. I gave him my American passport and my OCI card. He demanded to see my visa from the Indian consular office. Unfortunately, that visa was attached to my old passport and I did not bring it with me.
I explained to him that I am sorry I forgot to bring my old passport but since I do possess a valid OCI Card that would automatically mean that I do also possess a permanent (life long) visa for India and there are proofs that I have traveled multiple times to India after I had received my OCI card.
Mr. Biswas detained me for two hours inside the airport and then he told me that he is going to allow me to stay in India for 72 hours and asked me to report to the Foreign Relations Regional Officer (FRRO) in the city within 72 hours. He kept my passport. During all that time I had no opportunity either to approach his OC (Officer in Charge) although I asked for it, or to contact my relatives who came to the airport to receive me and were waiting outside and had no idea why I was being held back or if I have even arrived.
Forgetting to bring my old passport was my own fault but I ‘forgot’ to bring it partly because I knew I have my OCI Card with me and I thought, that means something, I really believed that I am a citizen of India too. Why would a citizen also need a visa to enter his own country? I thought I have a dual citizenship for both the USA and India. Other wise, what is the difference between an ordinary foreigner and the OCI Card holder?
Next day was a Sunday, I called a friend in Ann Arbor who went into my house, got my old passport and sent me the scanned copy of my old passport and a copy of my permanent visa by e-mail.
So, on Monday I went to see Mr. Bibhas Talukdar, the FRRO. He hardly looked at the documents (the scanned visa) that I had with me he simply asked me to get my old passport by courier mail within another seven days. He appeared gleeful telling me that it is only out of “pity” that he is allowing me to stay in India for seven more days. He was totally unimpressed by either my status as a Professor Emeritus of the University of Michigan or my age (70+)
I called my friend in Ann Arbor again who then sent my old passport by FedEx. Three days later the passport arrived. Since I had to leave Kolkata for prescheduled visit to Bangalore, my niece took it to Mr. Talukdar. But due to lack of communication between the FRRO office and the airport immigration department my passport had not arrived at the city office even after 9 days. My niece had to go to the FRRO’s office three times once waiting until 6 P.M. still they did not have my passport. They only promised: “it will come soon”. At last, 12 days after my arrival, my niece got my passport.
From this painful and anxiety provoking experience I have learned a few valuable lessons:
1. The loud talk about “Dual Citizenship” for Indian Americans is just a political hoax.
2. The OCI card just does not have any value. It is just a piece of expensive junk. You still need a visa every time you travel to India whether or not you possess an OCI card. Only difference is that for the high price of getting an OCI card you will get a “life long ” visa. A 10-year visa is much cheaper.
3. When coming to India always consider yourself a foreigner and bring your visa with you, there will be no exceptions. Your OCI card is not a visa substitute.
4. In fact, you will probably be treated worse than an ordinary foreigner arriving without a valid visa. Because a foreigner especially a white Caucasian will at least be treated with courtesy and probably offered a temporary visa if there is no reason to deny it, but not you.
5. Since the word “CITIZEN” in the OCI card is the root cause of confusion, the name should be changed.
Please feel free to forward this mail to any of your friends who may benefit from my experience. Especially feel free to forward this to any influential politician or civil servant in India that you may know.
Sujit K. Pandit M.D.
Department of Anesthesiology
University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI