The news of a passport office opening in Imphal is welcome, though this is a government overture long overdue. Till this event, the nearest passport office people in Manipur could have their passports made was Guwahati, necessitating substantial extra expenditures by way of travel tickets and stay in the city, a fact which would have inhibited many from seeking to have this important document for themselves and their families. Apart from saving passport seekers from the state this extra expense, they will also now have the comforting thought of dealing with clerical staffs (at least some) who speak the local language, and this is important for a lot of ordinary less than well educated people. Almost certainly, the passport office will all of a sudden become a lot more accessible to all in the state and this is good. The passport is the ultimate identity card any individual can have, and one which will be recognized everywhere in the world, not just in India. We encourage every citizen to have it, even if they do not intend to travel abroad immediately.
In a remote state like Manipur, the passport has been generally seen as a virtually impossible document to acquire, and only those who have to travel abroad take the trouble to get them made. There was indeed an aura of mystic attached to both its access points as well as its uses. It is reasonable to believe then this obscurity of knowledge about the passport could have led many to presume the opening of the office would open up the floodgates for tourists to enter Manipur. For those who were indeed under this illusion, let it be known, this will not be the case at all. The passport is an identity card that establishes the holder`™s nationality among others, and is essential if somebody wants to travel abroad. It has nothing to do with tourism promotion in Manipur. For this, the facility needed is a visa office. Perhaps the Chief Minister, Okram Ibobi, also sensed this possible misinterpretation, for on the day of the opening of the passport office, in his speech he made it explicitly clear that he is also working to have visa on arrival facilities at the Imphal airport as well as other surface entry points to the state. We endorse this view, and urge upon the government to indeed work to expedite the plan to have the facility in the state soon. There is one more caution about a passport office in Imphal, or anywhere. The document being very important, and is virtually a certification that the holder is a citizen of India, care must be taken that there are no foreign nationals infiltration to acquire Indian citizenship. The onus for not allowing this to happen is squarely on the shoulders of the police department, for without police verification, no passport can be issued. We do hope the reputation of the department as prone to corruption, does not expose the country to the danger of foreign national infiltration.
Equally essential as the visa on arrival facility is also a Myanmar visa office to issue visas to Indians who wish to travel to Myanmar. For this a bilateral agreement with Myanmar will be essential. Considering the growth of trade on the Myanmar border at Moreh, it is anybody`™s guess that a Myanmar visa issuing authority in Imphal can be a boon for further growth of business along this route. If Agartala has a Bangladesh visa office empowered to issue visas for travels to Bangladesh, there is no reason the same facility for travels to a friendly country like Myanmar should not be extended to Imphal. Or else, the Myanmar border town of Tamu could be encouraged through bilateral talks between the Government of India and the Government of Myanmar, to introduce visa on arrival facilities.
Leader Writer: Pradip Phanjoubam