JEDDAH: The decision of the Indian Ministry of External Affairs to increase the passport renewal fees and other passport related services, double fold, have raised the ire of many Indian expatriate workers.
The fee hike became effective Oct. 1.
The Federation of Kerala Associations in Saudi Arabia expressed its strongest protest and urged the Indian government to immediately withdraw its decision, said R. Muraleedharan president of the Federation.
“The decision of the Ministry of External Affairs to increase the fees for new passports and passport reissuing, is unjustifiable and discriminatory. It has to be taken into account that when compared to the fees in India, the External Affairs Ministry is already taking exorbitant passport related fees through the Indian Missions abroad,” said Muraleedharan.
Muraleedharan also added, for a 36-page passport of 10-year validity, the all-inclusive fees in India is only 1000 Indian Rupees (equivalent to SR 72). That means, with the new fees (SR 282), an NRI from Saudi Arabia must pay an increased cost of almost 400 percent, to renew his passport in Saudi Arabia. Not to mention the additional fees for the outsourcing agency, which amount to SR 15 and an additional SR 8 for the ICWF fee.
“With the new fees, an ordinary contract worker in Saudi Arabia has to pay almost one month’s salary for the passport alone. The average salary of a laborer is SR 350 per month,” he explained. The statement of the Ministry of External Affairs, justifying the reasons for the fee increase are unacceptable and unfounded. Since the blank passports are printed in India, the Ministry only has to bear the cost of transporting the passports from Delhi to Saudi Arabia. We request the Ministry of External Affairs to unify all passport related fees.”
According to a statement made by the Indian Government, passport related fees increased from SR 500 to SR 1,500. Consequently, the rates starting October 1 are, 1,500 Rupees for normal applications, 3,500 Rupees for ‘tatkal’ applications, a three-day renewal service, and 1,000 Rupees for minor applications. In addition, the fees for the police clearance certificate have also increased from 300 to 500 Rupees.
For Indian expatriates in Saudi Arabia, the costs for a new passport or for reissuing a passport containing 36 pages, with a validity of 10 years, is SR 282. Whilst renewing the passport through the faster ‘tatkal’ service amounts to SR 845. The passport renewal fees are yet higher for passports containing 60 pages, with a cost of SR 376, and SR 939 when issued through the ‘tatkal’ service.
Mohammed Shareef, a construction worker, who earns SR 1200 a month, said the charges would be too high for him to pay. “Companies don’t increase salaries often so why should the government raise prices this way? If they increase a little, it is reasonable. But to pay double is a
lot for people like us,” he
Indian national Yousuf Amjad said the government should not add more burdens to the already encumbered NRIs. “I humbly request the passport authorities to reconsider their decision and bring back the previous fees in order to reduce the burden on low income NRIs,” said Amjad.
Azhar Zai, a specialist aviation administrator, said, “Looking at the volume of increase, it seems to me that a form of taxation is being imposed on NRIs indirectly. There must be a good reason for the increase in service fees; our Government is considerate, and we can request it to reconsider this decision, since the majority of the NRIs, particularly in the Middle East, are working but making meager salaries. With the rising inflation, NRIs are barely making enough to cover the costs of their basis amenities”.
Zai further added, “the induction of outsourcing, its charges and the time consumed in renewing a passport, have already affected us, and with this huge hike in the fees, it will surely accelerate the tempo of grievances. If unavoidable, a slight and reasonable increase should be proposed”.
Asimudeen Ansari another Indian said the rise was particularly steep for those with families, who need to renew more than one passport.
“They have to rethink this and lower the fees,” said Ansari.