Wednesday, February 17, 2010

It's free-for-all in Bangalore

It's free-for-all in Bangalore

Despite terror attacks in Mumbai and Pune, there is no mechanism to monitor foreigners

MK Madhusoodan and Soumya Menon. Bangalore



The lack of a mechanism to keep track of foreign nationals visiting the city may help terrorists carry out their deadly intentions.
Currently, only the movements of visitors from Pakistan are being monitored. According to a Foreigners Regional Registration Office (FRRO) staffer, "it's free-for-all" if the visitor is from a "friendly country."
Investigations into the February 13 blast in a Pune bakery that killed 10 persons and hurt more than 50, revealed that LeT suspect David Coleman Headley, now in US custody, had conducted a recce there.
Though the Bangalore police had received two circulars last month from central intelligence agencies warning against terror attacks, the police were finding it difficult to monitor the movements of all foreigners, especially those arriving here on tourist visa.
The FRRO official said that it was difficult to screen all foreigners as many of them were termed as visitors from friendly countries. Most of the tourists were arriving here on visiting visas, which permitted them to stay for 180 days.
Pakistanis, however, were required to mention the places they might visit in their visas and strictly adhere to their itinerary.
"The lack of a mechanism to monitor foreign nationals other than Pakistanis has created a problem for us. Headley and Tahawwur Hussain Rana, were from friendly nations and their presence in India was never noticed by the Indian intelligence until they were caught in the US," the official added.
Speaking on the circulars from the intelligence agencies, a senior police officer said the first one was received on January 26. "The second one came two days later, asking us to watch lodges where foreigners often stay. Since then, we have been maintaining log books for this purpose and the lodges and hotels send details of the foreigners who check in with their passport details. We particularly focus on Sri Lankan, Pakistani and Bangladeshi nationals. We cross verify the details and even conduct surprise checks on these lodges and hotels,'' he said.
However, the police admit that not all foreigners could be monitored. Many of them who held visiting visas, were known to be shifting from one hotel to another. "There is a rule in the Foreigners Act that if a foreign national stays at a particular place for more than 14 days, the place of stay has to inform the jurisdictional police about it. The problem with lodges near railway stations and bus stations is that the foreigners stay there only for a night, and we seldom get to know about them," the officer said.
It was estimated that more than 1,000 foreign nationals visit the city daily.

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