Long Immigration Queues At Delhi Airport As Home, Aviation Ministry Spar

NEW DELHI:  Flying out of the national capital Delhi's international airport on Tuesday, Parminder Singh put out a couple of photographs of the crowds in the immigration hall of airport, rated this year as the world's second best. Except for a short caption that identified the location, he didn't make any comment. He didn't have to.

Mr Singh had apparently hoped that his tweet would draw the government's attention to the long chaotic queues at immigration counters at Delhi's modern T3 terminal.

"A tourism boom will be undermined by visitors' '1st & last memories'," tweeted Mahindra Groups's Chairman Anand Mahindra in response. "Immigration processes need to be dramatically shortened".

But the government, it seems, already knows that something is really wrong.

It is just that its two arms responsible for the security and upkeep of the airport - the home ministry and the civil aviation ministry - have been too busy fighting turf wars to agree on the cause of the problem, and the fix.

The blame game follows.

Officials at the Union Home Ministry say opening more counters would have quickly shortened the queues, and the immigration department that reports to it was ready to man more counters.

"We had asked for space for more counters but this request was turned down for the capital's international airport," a senior home ministry official said, speaking on conditions of anonymity.

The immigration department operates 75 counters each at the arrival and departure terminals.

The Civil Aviation Ministry, however, insists that building more counters wasn't a solution. Not when the existing counters aren't staffed by immigration officers during peak traffic hours.

Or, as an aviation ministry official said, when immigration officers take too long to process each passenger either because immigration staffers - half of them are drawn from Delhi Police, the other half from the intelligence bureau - aren't trained enough or have abreast with technology.

If the home ministry addresses this aspect, another official suggested, it could reduce the time taken to clear a passenger from the 50-90 seconds it takes them.
It is this kind of an confrontationist approach that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had first flagged three years ago when he told top bureaucrats to stop working in silos and instead, work as a team.





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