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Home > News > Report

12-year-old denied temporary landing permit in Kolkata

George Joseph in New York | September 11, 2007 13:55 IST

Immigration officials in Kolkata denied a temporary landing permit to the 12-year-old granddaughter of the late Indian lawmaker Samar Guha.

They deported Medha Ghosh, an American citizen, along with her mother Sreemati, an Indian citizen, within one hour of their landing in India.

"I salute their efficiency. They determined that a 12-year-old child is a threat to India in no time," said her father, Tirthankar Ghosh, a chemist in Philadelphia.

Sreemati and Medha left for Kolkata July 17 from Philadelphia on Lufthansa flight LH427, he said. Ghosh did not travel with them as he was planning to arrive by the end of the month.

After arriving at Frankfurt they boarded Lufthansa flight LH750 for Kolkata. "On arriving at Kolkata on July 18th at 11 pm, my wife realised that she had forgotten to take my daughter's old US passport which had her Indian visa, valid until 2013," he said.

"My wife's repeated request to the Indian immigration authorities to grant my daughter a Temporary Landing Facility for 24 hours fell on deaf ears," he said.

Another family traveling with them called Ghosh on their cell phone. He immediately called the Kolkata immigration authorities. He told them he had the passport and visa and would fax it to them in a few minutes.

But the officials told him that their senior officer had already denied his family permission to land.

Ghosh said he pleaded with them tearfully not to send his wife and daughter back. But the officials would not relent.

"They put my weeping daughter and my wife on the same Lufthansa flight back to Philadelphia, without allowing either of them to even say hello to my waiting mother," he said.

A simple computer search would have revealed that his wife and daughter had visited India every year for the last 12 years, initially to see his wife's ailing father, Professor Samar Guha, a three-term member of the Lok Sabha who died in 2002, and now to see her ailing mother, he said.

"I am dumbfounded that the Indian authorities thought a 12-year-old girl with a valid US passport, visiting India with her Indian mother, would be such a high security risk that they had to deny her a temporary visa," he noted.

Ghosh said his wife has fallen ill after traveling non-stop for almost 48 hours and so canceled immediate travel plans.
A similar problem faced Sri Lankan Higher Education Minister Muhammed Mustafa who landed at Kochi international airport June 27 without an Indian visa, Ghosh noted.

The visa was endorsed on his previous passport, which he had forgotten to bring with him. However, he was allowed to leave the airport when the superintendent of police granted him a temporary landing permit for 24 hours after accepting a $40 fee! "I guess compassion and kindness by Indian officials in power are reserved for politicians only," Ghosh said, adding that the incident had left an emotional scar on his family.

"I hope this episode reaches someone of authority in the Indian bureaucracy so that steps are taken and such an ordeal is not experienced by another 12-year-old," he said.

In a similar incident last December, reported by India Abroad, Mumbai airport immigration officials deported seven-year-old Viraj Shriwardhankar and his three-and-a-half-year-old brother Vrishabh two hours after they landed in India for similar reasons.