Saturday, March 03, 2007

US Visa -- The Business of Security

I went for my US visa interview to Chennai yesterday. Had heard horror stories of the process earlier. When I complained about Airport hassles when traveling within India, some foreigners had remarked once to me "If you think this is a hassle, wait till you visit a US airport". Gee, I always thought things were very organized and people friendly in the US of A.

The friendliness became apparent in Chennai. It seems one cannot take mobile phones inside the US consulate. Considering one is allowed to take it almost EVERYWHERE else in the world (including Operation Theatres!!) I fail to see the uniqueness of the Consulate security, to excise a mobile phone ban. To make the matters interesting, there is no counter where disallowed items can be checked-in for safe-keeping. The visa-candidate is all sweat and shivers. The answer for this "security consciousness" soon became clear. Right after the cops finish their self-righteous tirade, they offer to keep the cellphone for us at a nearby tea-shop. They even accompanied me to the shop and assured me that the expensive Nokia N series would be returned safely. All this for only Rs.100. If half the 1500 people visiting daily bring one disallowed item, this enterprise earns them a cool 15 Lakh monthly.

No wonder Bush is having a hard time convincing the Iraqis that the Security Forces are there to "free" them. The next thing you know, the high-tech Airport X-ray scans will be available on porn-sites the world over. It is indeed sad to see Security forces make a mockery of the REASON they are there in first place!

It seems in New Delhi, the embassy has a locker to check-in the mobile phones. If a tea-shop can do it, I doubt it takes heavy resources or space to create this system in Chennai and other consulates as well. High time the Chennai consulate became people friendly.

1 comment:

Alok said...

I can confirm the bit about the US embassy in Delhi having a counter to check-in cellphones and other prohibited objects. The overall experience was decent enough, except that the interview "appointment" had no meaning since all of us were anyway herded into queues and the time at which I was interviewed had no relation to the time at which I was supposed to be.