Friday, November 11, 2011

David Headley and the Indian Government, you've cost me three days of my life

I want to be sure I can re-enter India after Bhutan. There's this "two-month rule" where if you exit India on a multiple-entry tourist visa, you have to wait 2 months to re-enter. Unless you're an actual tourist, in which case there's an exception, but I want to be sure.

3 PM yesterday: arrive in Kathmandu, go to Indian embassy, and I'm told it's closed. (Guru Nanak's birthday! 2% of India is Sikh. This would be like US embassies being closed on Rosh Hashanah. Whatever.)
9 AM: arrive at Indian embassy. It opens at 9:30; I am smart! ... The doors open at 8:30, and people have been lining up since 7. I am dumb.
9:15 AM: I find the right form to fill out. Needs some photocopies. I run outside to the photocopy business right there.
9:30 AM: I realize I need to take a number. The machine asks "tourist visa or transit?" Err, neither; re-entry permit. Tourist, I guess. "First visit, or have you already filled in the telex form?" Uh. I choose both. I receive numbers A48 and C37.
Notice the long time gap here. We have three queues: A, C, and F, and there is one person processing them all. This would be like 150 people showing up at a restaurant at once, and there's one waiter and one cook.
2:30 PM: C37 is called. I give him the forms and pay 900 rupees (y'know, because), and am told to return at 5 PM to pick up my passport.
5 PM: "Wait here, 15 minutes."
5:30 PM: I get my passport back, and yes, there is a stamp! "Permission is granted to re-enter India (single entry). Registration required within 14 days of arrival." Awesome. All my plans are not ruined!

Now, I wasn't actually so honked off by all this. All in all, I had a pleasant day: talked with some fellow travelers/waiters-in-line, read some of Shantaram, went to a lovely coffeeshop, and even got to explore some Kathmandu in between. But I'd like to adopt a honked-off tone for a minute to talk about terrorism.

The two-month-rule was instituted after American national David Headley did some bombs in Mumbai, after going to and from Pakistan frequently on his tourist visa. The bombs did terrible damage, to be sure! But look at this damage: I've spent at least 2 days researching and scouting around Nainital to make sure I'd be okay, and I lost today also. Three days. Plus however long it takes to register after I get back to India. How many tourists are affected by this rule? India has 5 million foreign tourists/year. Say 2% want to re-enter, so 100k re-entering tourists. Say that most are only half as anal/stupid as me, so they waste 2 days each. Indian Government, by instituting this rule, you've killed 200,000 person-days. That's ~550 person-years. ... Basically, you've wasted about seven tourists' lives. Add to that the administrative overhead, and it maybe doubles. So Headley and his goons killed 164 people, but you've added 14 more. This is not the way to fight terrorism.

Okay, that's all. Really, not a bad day. And I can sleep a little easier knowing I won't end up in Bhutan-India-border-limbo (and lose all my meeting-up-with-friends plans after Bhutan) in a week. Tomorrow, I'll go see some Kathmandu.

1 comment:

  1. Stan would have loved your math to real life analysis. And the "beats a pokhara in the eye...." Ha.
    By the way, I am a believer in sweating the details over something this important. It beats waking up on a whaling ship.