PMO steps in, overhauls the way Govt deals with foreign students
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has set the process rolling for India's first comprehensive restructuring of the infrastructure and procedures governing nearly 30,000 foreign students pursuing higher education in India.india Updated: Feb 10, 2009 21:47 IST
From clearer rules to grant student visas down to the LCD television and the air-conditioner in the waiting rooms for foreign students, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has set the process rolling for India's first comprehensive restructuring of the infrastructure and procedures governing nearly 30,000 foreign students pursuing higher education in India.
As part of this exercise, the Prime Minister's Office has also told the Ministry of Home Affairs to set an outer limit for clearing research visas that involves visits to sensitive areas or dealing with sensitive socio-political subjects.
If MHA, or the inter-ministerial committee fails to take a decision within this time frame, the principle of deemed approval would apply, according to fresh guidelines to be issued over the next few days.
The PMO's initiative - drawn from the recommendations of the committee set up last year under Indian Council for Cultural Relations chief Pawan Varma last year - is trying to address this problem too.
The PMO wants the home ministry to extend provisional registration on arrival, allow students to go home at least thrice in an academic year, create an interactive website that allows students to fix a prior appointment at the FRRO, enable smooth access to senior officers in case of grievance and clear cases of transfer of university within 15-60 days.
"FRRO should upgrade infrastructure in their offices to make a student's wait during clearance of procedures comfortable. For example, offices should provide AC lounges with LCD televisions as well as notice boards that display rules and regulations," a PMO note said.
The prime minister has been concerned at the bureaucratic delays, lack of factual information and infrastructure besides a consistent leave-to-fend-for-themselves approach of the government towards foreign students.
Singh, who had travelled to the United Kingdom in the mid-1950s to study at Oxford and returned with memories that he still cherishes, wanted to ensure that foreign students in India too go back with equally pleasant memories.
A PMO official said instructions were being sent out to four ministries concerned including MHA, Ministry of Human Resource Development and the External Affairs Ministry apart from universities.
Accordingly, all Indian missions are being told to appoint a nodal officer at each embassy to provide accurate information relating to students aspiring to study in India.
In India, universities are being told to establish an International Students' Centre, introduce a bridge course in English for students from non-English speaking countries on payment basis and allocate part of the revenue generated through foreign students for their welfare like building new hostels.
But as Felix, a foreign student in Delhi would tell you, one of the biggest problems that foreign students face in India - other than accommodation - was the red tape involved in registering students at the Foreigners Regional Registration Office. "The bureaucracy in registering a student with the government," Felix said.