Friday, February 17, 2006

This is insane

Just yesterday, I wrote a comment on Rohin's post (over at the Daily Rhino) about how the US has eased its visa process in order to attract more students from Asia (and India, in particular). Later in the day, however, I found out that one of our students got a raw deal on his visa application to go to the US for a conference; also, he was going to this conference to receive an award!

Update: Looks like there is even more: Dr. Placid Rodriguez, former Director of the Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research, has also been denied a visa to go to the US for a conference.

And, there's more. I just learnt that even an ex-Director of IISc (Prof. Goverdhan Mehta, who stepped down last July) is not immune from this sort of a rough deal. Oh, by the way, Mehta is also a member of the Prime Minister's Scientific Advisory Council.

While I applaud the US consulates in India for being quite democratic in dishing out this treatment, I have to say this is a an utterly stupid way of spreading their democratic ideals.


  1. Anonymous said...

    I would love to post with my real name here but for obvious reasons I can't.

    It was a bad experience. It has firmed up my decision to not stay a day beyond what I absolutely, really need to stay there, and do what I am going there for. Then I am coming back home!

  2. Anonymous said...

    As you have pointed out, it is a ridiculous way to show democracy. We all know, not to take US at its face value and just take it for granted that they will do,what they say.

    If I were arrogant enough, I would say, US is scared of Indian scientists.

  3. Anonymous said...

    The American Consulate has given a clarification yesterday, this is a non-issue. Let us not blow it out of proportion.

    Even you would agree that the Americans have every right to screen visitors to their country. I dont think even the scientists mind it too much.

    Last time I checked many of the IISc scientists children were studying or settled in the USA.

    All in all a pretty good deal for Indians I think. Let us not complain and move on.

  4. Anonymous said...

    Yes, but a lot of other countries also suffer from 'terrorism' including India. At the interview it is usually: guilty until proven innocent.

    They gave the clarification only because the stuff hit the fan in a high profile case. What happens to other low-level scientists, when they are denied a legitimate visa to attend conferences, collect awards, give invited lectures etc?

    Maybe the dregs of American bureaucracy are sent overseas and relegated to being the public face of America? The missteps of a few agencies in the US cause some events to happen by which the overall image of US is tarnished. The world interprets this as arrogance if there are no other US-internal checks and balances.

    Again, I wish I could post with my real name.

  5. Anonymous said...

    Forget you scientists! i'm a techie and applied for business visa at delhi insteaf of chennai as appointment dates are 4 months stretching at chennai.

    And Delhi consulate is not any better, several questions that never concern to me, as if we are aliens entering their sacred land. Later in my life, I have to realize that as a nation we need to bear it to progress, the cost for developing.

  6. Abi said...

    Anonymous: Good luck with your trip! It's clear that the visa interview was a harrowing experience.

    Queer: Thanks for your comment; I am not sure about the US or any other country being scared about our scientists. Are we scared of theirs?

    Vivekanandan: The scientists do not mind the visa procedure much, simply because they treat it as yet another process they need to go through. Visiting US for a conference (even if the person wishes to spend some extra time to visit friends/relatives, or for visiting labs to give lectures) is a fairly standard, routine thing for scientists to do. If some clerk (who probably cannot even tell the difference between bioterrorism and horse manure) is going to act as a gate keeper and act pushy, I think it is outrageous. When there is an outrage, well, why should we not complain?

    Just tell me: if there wasn't much of a hue and cry, do you think the US Consulate would have issued a clarification? Please remember: Prof. Mehta's interview happened a week before it hit the news; the clarification didn't arrive before Indian Express outed this outrage. Also, is just a clarification enough? Where is the assurance that scientists who wish to visit the US for conferences will not be hindered?

    Harsha: thanks for sharing your experience with the US visa interview. It sounds quite terrible. Sympathies.

  7. Anonymous said...

    PhD students attending conferences (though not quite scientists yet) have to face this time and again in Mumbai/Delhi. Getting a visa sometimes entails as much planning, tension, preparation, etc. as the writing of the paper which got accepted in the conference. (Ok this may be a slight exaggeration). Their experiences never see the light of day.