Open forum brings passport issues to the fore

Open forum brings passport issues to the fore


By Irfan Mohammed

JEDDAH — Hundreds of Indian expatriates thronged their country›s consulate on Saturday to redress their passport-related grievances at an open forum.

On the initiative of Consul General Md Noor Rahman Sheikh, the Consulate General of India (CGI) organized the open forum to guide Indian nationals who are having anomalies and errors in their passports to correct.

The response from the diaspora was overwhelming and the open house was attended by about 1000 members of the community. Issues related to change of name, change of parents› name, issues related to names of spouses, change of date and place of birth and related issues were addressed during the session.

The forum also apprised the visitors of the relaxed passport rules introduced by the authorities.

Scores of people, including those coming from faraway places such as Abha, Tabuk and Taif, arrived at the consulate early morning and waited for the open-forum, which was attended by Deputy Consul General Mohammed Shahid Alam, Consul Anand Kumar and other officials. Members of all major Malayali community organizations volunteered their services to the crowd. A few families along with their children also sought the assistance of officials to correct relevant problems.

The consulate conducted the open forum in its bid to reach out to the public and understand their grievances to address them in an appropriate way, said Alam.

He told Saudi Gazette that the open forum has evoked an overwhelming response and the consulate would hold similar forums in future.

He said most of the applicants approached the consulate to rectify the date of birth beyond 5 years, which can’t be done.

Anand Kumar advised the applicants about the passport rules relaxed by the Indian government such as modifications in names of spouses, parents and address through hassle-free procedure.

Most of the applicants approached the authorities for the correction of name and date of birth besides other grievances, which officials heard patiently.

Applicants were upset when they were told that the change of date of birth was not possible beyond five years and any modification would not be accepted by the Saudi passport authorities.

“I had great expectation to correct my date of birth but was saddened when officials expressed their inability to correct it beyond five years,» said Mohammed Suhail, hailing from Kerala.

He said he had been living in the Kingdom for more than 22 years and had been facing difficulties due to a discrepancy in his Aadar card and the passport.

“I am about to migrate to a western country but due to the discrepancy in my date of birth, it was kept on hold,” said Gopinath, also hailing from Kerala.

“The open forum proved to helpful for me to correct my surname, which has been causing problems for me for many years,” said Syed Shafiullah from Karnataka.

He thanked the officials for informing him of the required procedures to change his surname.

Some applicants brought the attention of the officials in delays in the renewal of their passports due to the verification process back home in India.

Abdul Gafoor Kottaakkadan said his passport was about to expire, for which officials responded promptly and assured him that they would check with the verification process in India.