Earlier this week, Andy Pag was arrested in Pushkar for carrying a satellite phone without permission.
Andy claims that he didnâ€™t knew it was illegal to carry satellite phones in India without permission and he had told the officials at Wagah Border that he was carrying one and despite that, he was allowed through.
While I am not sure if he told the right person that he was carrying a satellite phone and I do agree with the governmentâ€™s stance that there should be at least licensing for usage of satellite phone as it cannot be tapped like regular mobile phones. My only qualm with the whole situation is, that nowhere on the Government of India sites (be it MHA, MEA or Indian Embassy sites in US and UK) is it mentioned that a tourist isnâ€™t allowed to carry a satellite phone!
If we as country do not tell a tourist planning to visit India, what he isnâ€™t allowed to carry into the country or would require special permission for, then how do we expect them to know about such rules?
And if they do not know about such rules, are they really guilty of breaking them?
It is akin to fining people for not knowing that a particular road only allows one way traffic, even though nowhere is it mentioned that it is in fact a one way street!
While I applaud the government for coming up with laws and rules to protect us the citizens of India against terrorist attacks, I do request them to make such laws easily accessible to the public and those visiting India.
It can be as simple as a webpage which lists things that are not allowed into the country or a flyer which is handed out to those applying for visa. If people do not read these and still bring such things in, by all means put them in prisons and make an example out of them, but until we make a conscious effort to make our rules known, I feel it is not fair to punish those, who did not knew.
While Andy Pagâ€™s fate would now be decided by the court and irrespective of whether or not he is found guilty or whether there is more to this whole issue, I feel this incident has somewhat damaged Indiaâ€™s image abroad and I sincerely hope that government learns something from this and takes the necessary steps to ensure that innocent people and tourists donâ€™t get caught in the crossfire.
Ps. my views on this topic were today also published in one of leading Hindi Daily, Navbharat Times and can be seen here.