Big Demand for Illegal Indian Passports, Consul General Says

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ATLANTIC CITY, N.J.—The growing demand for everything Indian abroad has led to a burgeoning illegal market in  unused but valid Indian passports, said Prabhu Dayal, Consul General of India in New York, the India Tribune reports.

“The government of India viewed the matter seriously as it came to its notice that several Indians, who had acquired citizenship of other nations such as the US, continue to retain their Indian passport, which is illegal, and even sold it for a premium to enable the purchaser to travel to India,” Dayal said in a recent speech at a two-day annual convention of the Federation of Andhra Pradesh Medical Graduates in USA (APMG).

India does not have biometric systems, such as using fingerprinting and taking photographs of visitors at immigration counters in international airports, and this makes it easy for the purchaser to enter India illegally using some other’s passport.

Often, the international flight arrives at wee hours, and those manning the immigration counters swipe the passports to check the names against those in black-listed category or wanted by law enforcement agencies.

If the photo matches, there is no system to check whether the passport belongs to the person standing in front of them, Dayal said.

In some cases, it has been found that some unscrupulous persons had even renewed their unused Indian passports in the Indian missions while simultaneously holding US passports and traveled back and forth using both the passports alternatively.

The US does not subject its citizens to biometric tests, while Indian passport holders return home without much hassle.

The government of India has been trying to plug the loopholes.

The Ministry of External Affairs made it mandatory last year for Indians abroad who had acquired citizenship of other countries to surrender their Indian passport, get it cancelled and collect a renunciation certificate from the missions to become eligible for services offered such as Indian visa, Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) card or People of Indian Origin (PIO) card and even attestation of documents.

Dayal said there was a serious security breach last year, when the Indian intelligence agencies found out the role of a stolen Indian passport in the killing of a Hamas leader in Dubai.