The Punjab Congress has expressed surprise over the decision of the central government not to include Guru Ram Das ji International Airport here among the nine international airports of the country where e-visa facility has been made available.
The government introduced this facility to provide online visa for 43 countries, including the US, Australia, Japan, Israel, Germany and Singapore. Now, people wishing to travel to any of these 43 countries can apply for a visa from their homes and receive it within 72 hours.
Urging Prime Minister Narendra Modi to include Amritsar in the e-visa policy, Congress leader and former MLA Sukhpal Singh Khaira said the e-visa policy was initiated by the Manmohan Sing-led UPA government in February last to cover as many as 180 countries across the globe for the facility. As per norms, the e-visa is valid for a period of 30 days and the visitor can avail it twice a year.
Khaira pointed out that this facility would be available at nine airports — Bengaluru, Chennai, Kochi, Delhi, Goa, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Mumbai and Thiruvananthapuram. Unfortunately, the facility had been denied to one of the most important and strategic Sri Guru Ram Das ji Airport in Amritsar, he added.
“The Amritsar airport caters to a huge population of NRIs originally belonging to Punjab, Rajasthan, and parts of Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir. Moreover, the Golden Temple is one of the most visited places in the world and tourists come to Amritsar from all over the globe. Under such circumstances this city should have been given this facility,” added Khaira.
At present Qatar Airways, Uzbekistan Airways, Turkmenistan Airlines, Jet Airways, beside Air India, operate from Sri Guru Ram Das ji International Airport. These airlines fly directly to international destinations with connecting flights from their respective countries.
“The Amritsar airport has the same importance as other nine airports; hence, the e-visa facility for the airport will not only promote the economy of Punjab, but also of the neighboring states,” said Khaira.
The Congress leader also questioned the decision of the government to provide e-visa facility at only nine airports and not at all the 24 international airports of the country.
Khaira pointed out that Charanjit Singh Gumtala, patron of Amritsar Vikas Manch, had made a representation to the PM on this issue. He urged the PM to clear this facility for the Amritsar airport in view of the holy city’s importance and the large NRI population of Punjab and other neighbouring states.