The Indian consulate in San Francisco, US, has been allegedly charging $2,500-$5,000 as bribe to grant visa to persons of Indian origin (PIOs) to visit India, said a delegation of the North American Punjabi Association in Jalandhar on Friday.
Association president Satnam Singh Chahal, who recently met union minister for overseas Indian affairs Vayalar Ravi and top brass of the home ministry, said Ravi admitted that in US cases of more than 75,000 PIOs - majority of who got US citizenship on the basis of political asylum - were pending for the grant of visa.
"While 35,000 applications are pending at San Francisco, 22,000 visa seekers are awaiting their turn at New York. Similarly, the Chicago consulate is holding back decision on 18,000 applications on flimsy grounds," alleged Chahal, claiming that the San Francisco consulate staffers were charging anything up to $5,000 as bribe to grant visa.
"Consul general Susmita G Thomas and her colleague Early Mukherjee are biased against Punjabis and should be suspended immediately for harassing us," he said.
Chahal said Mukherjee, on several occasions, had passed derogatory remarks against Punjabis, which is anti-constitutional.
"We had submitted memorandums to the minister of overseas Indian affairs and home ministry officials, who assured to take appropriate action against the officials," association chairman Dalwinder Singh Dhoot said.
"Why the family members of those who got US citizenship on the basis of political asylum are being discriminated by refusal of visa. What is their fault? Those born and brought up in US are also being denied visa for obvious reasons," the association members said.
They said they would soon apprise All India Congress Committee general secretary Rahul Gandhi of the "corrupt practices" prevalent in Indian consulates in US.
The association alleged that more than one lakh PIOs were deprived of the opportunity to visit India while officials concerned were making huge amount of money out of bribes. An inquiry should be instituted into the functioning of the San Francisco consulate, they said.
"We have decided to hold a fast outside the consulate to press for our demand for issuance of passports and release of visa to PIOs," they added.
Chahal said the PIOs denied visa were not on the blacklist. He added they held no discussion with regarding blacklisted persons with the minister.
The delegation comprising Dalwinder Singh Dhoot, AK Sharma, former IPS officer Santokh Singh Judge and Jaspal Singh Mann met Ravi and requested that the cases be taken up sympathetically.
The delegation apprised Ravi that most Indians sought political asylum for getting legal status for their stay in USA.
"They are not necessarily criminals or having any problem with the Indian political system. Their method of getting legal stay in USA is being taken as an anti-Indian stance by Indian embassies," Chahal added.