Wednesday, 20 November 2019

VIP Security Syndrome Oh! My Name Is…

Updated: May 5, 2012 10:18 am

Funny is the word that aptly fits the antics and the tantrums, the Government of India, throws on trivialities. A film actor was detained at the New York airport sometime back and again this time in April, 2012, at an air port close to New York. The Government has called the film artist a VIP, who according to it, literally should have the run of any country. I thought I should look up as to what a VIP as in the Indian sense stands for. I found the following interesting interpretations of the word VIP.

■   Very Important Person

■   Visually Impaired Person

■   Value Improving Practice

■   Very Impatient Person

■   Verification Integration Plan

■   Very Idiotic Person

■   Vanity Is Perfection

■   Vulnerable Infants Program

■   Video Instructional Program

Very Intelligent Person, a film artist had to wait for 75 minutes at the airport for his clearance, and it appeared to the Government of India as if Heaven had fallen. Incidentally, neither his work nor his job exposes him to any security threat or any danger to his life. Suddenly, how a person working in a film industry becomes a VVVVVIP when there are umpteen numbers of businessmen, industrialists, builders or civil servants doing more important work.

How has he suddenly become a VIP in the eyes of the Government of India, which has gone overboard on taking up his case of some 75 minutes delay for his entry into USA? Whenever I have gone abroad, I have scrupulously avoided going even near the Indian Embassy, because the impression, with a few exceptions, all embassies give is that if you have any problem, either solve it yourself or go to hell.

Except for an unhelpful and rarely helpful receptionist, you cannot get past him or her to see or speak to somebody higher in the hierarchy in the missions.

Incidentally, when you go to other countries, you have to follow their procedures. Has anybody ever checked as to how long it takes to enter our country, even with a valid visa and how long it takes the Indians on Indian passport to clear all the formalities even in India?

Why are we paranoid about the position we hold? In this way the Government is guilty of pampering the film artist. To show that the person in question is an International celebrity is a travesty of the facts. He may be known in India or where Indian population lives. But if I were to ask anyone as to who the top hero or heroine of countries like the USA, the UK, France, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Thailand, is the answer would either be a fumble or I do not know. Every country is free to adopt any system to safeguard its security, and if it does not suit anybody, he or she should not go to visit. The External Affairs Ministry has patted itself on the back that its officials got him cleared in 75 Minutes.

It is a shame that Indian authorities would go to this extent to help a film artist, where as I am aware of the facts that how Indians abroad are harassed by the same missions. In one case, an Indian in Canada, who wanted to visit India, to see his ailing mother was denied visa, despite my pointing it to the External Affairs Minister. What point is the Ministry trying to prove is not clear? Does it want to convey that it takes up the concern of every Indian or of a select group or community or religion?

It appears that instead of serving all the Indians, Indian missions are out only to rescue a selected group or type of people. What is wrong, if before the entry into the USA, its officials verify the credentials of the visitors? I myself have faced this problem in our own country, as my name is Joginder Singh it is common to all types of criminals including terrorists and people WANTED. I patiently waited till I was cleared.

If the name of the film artist is similar to any terrorist, it is natural for the USA to have verified it. It is because of the stringent security measures that the USA cannot allow any terrorist incident to occur in that country after 9/11. On the contrary, terrorists have struck Delhi, Mumbai, Jaipur, Ahmedabad, Surat, Bangalore and many other places at will for simple reason that there is no policy or policy of willing to strike but afraid to wound. It was decent of USA to have apologised, for any inconvenience caused to the film artist. But it was not really called for nor is justified as common courtesy.

The USA has denied religious profiling. Even if it was done, there is nothing wrong with it as most of the terrorist attacks are led by the Muslims. I have seen in the Middle East Muslim countries very carefully scrutinizing the entrants to their country from Pakistan for the same reason. It is as much the right of the USA as of India to regulate the entry of anybody into their country, whether it suits somebody or not.

When in Commerce Ministry, the Secretary of the Ministry had a tale of woe while leaving India. He told me that every time he went abroad he was questioned and his antecedents were checked to avoid any such contingency. He would write clearly on the departure and arrival form as Avtar Singh Gill, IAS, Secretary Ministry of Commerce, Government of India. He said that he had to do so as a number of Sikh terrorists had the name of Avtar Singh.

Sometimes we have to pay for the sins of our name sake, and the best is to bear and grin, as George Fernandez and former president APJ Kalam did. If India is slack in controlling the ingress of the terrorists as the numerous attacks by them have shown as well as by Maoists and Naxalites. Why should we expect them, to follow what we are doing and what we are not? We should not try to appease anybody as Churchill rightly said; “An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile—hoping it will eat him last”. I can only say that Government should introspect and assess whether it was worth making so much of fuss, on a Non VIP and a film artist, who just speaks the lines written by others.

 By Joginder Singh

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