By perpetuating the tedious wait for passports, we are stifling dreams, curbing potential and brewing resentment within an already embattled region
Kashmir, the crown jewel of India, embodies the resilience and vitality of its people. But their tenacity is being tested in more ways than one, a clear example of which is the perplexing and wearisome situation regarding the issuance of passports in the region. Astonishingly, the process of getting a passport in Kashmir has become an agonising journey stretching to more than four or five long months.
On a global scale, the universal travel document – a passport – often takes only a few weeks, maybe a month or two at the most, to process. However, a contrasting reality emerges when we turn our focus towards Kashmir, where residents face a backlog in passport issuance that often stretches beyond a surprising four months. There is a perceptible impasse for Kashmiris who desire or need to venture beyond their borders. They languish in a protracted queue, hoping against hope to hold the blue travel booklet – a veritable lifeline to the outside world – in their hands.
This four-month-long gestation period for passport production is no recent development; rather, it is a seemingly persistent hiccup in Kashmir’s bureaucratic procedures. Yet the question remains: Why does the completion of this relatively straightforward procedure bear such disproportionate duration in the region?
We understand that every passport application necessitates security verification conducted by local police. Understandably, this may require a significant amount of time in areas with security concerns. Yet, one must argue whether such concerns should come at the cost of infringing on an individual’s freedom of movement.
These inexplicable hold-ups adversely affect the region’s populace on several levels. It puts a pause on potential business trips, derails travel plans and creates needless anxiety for families intending to connect with their kin overseas. At its most disturbing, it imperils the future of ambitious Kashmiri youth, hampering opportunities for overseas education and internships.
At a time when India strides toward digitisation and leaps into becoming an AI-driven nation, it feels fundamentally unfair that one section of its citizens remains chained in the tedium of extended waiting periods. Thereby, prompt redressal of this matter stands imperative, lest we remain enshrined as a country divided by more than just geographical contours.
With constant tussles in the socio-political arena, numerous applicants, predominantly the youth, experience career hiccups and face unfortunate career choices owing to this intolerable wait. An internationally-accepted career or educational opportunity should not hinge on a region’s geopolitical tension. Kashmiri applicants must not be made to shoulder this weight.
Authorities often cite backlogs due to heightened security protocols. While security cannot be compromised, there is a compelling need for smarter, faster processing methods, streamlined procedures, and technological advancements to counter these challenges effectively. Efficiency need not be compromised in the pursuit of safety.
By perpetuating the tedious wait for passports, we are stifling dreams, curbing potential and brewing resentment within an already embattled region. While maintaining security and regional stability is paramount, it is equally vital to consider the impact of these administrative impediments on ordinary individuals’ lives.
Every Kashmiri must enjoy the liberty of unfettered movement, a constitutional right like their counterparts elsewhere in the country. Streamlining the process and reducing the waiting period would bring immeasurable relief and demonstrate respect for Kashmiri citizens’ fundamental rights.
I urge the relevant authorities to turn their focus towards resolving this significant problem. The necessity of an efficient, expedient passport issuance procedure should not be undermined by an overzealous bureaucracy or undue delays shrouded in a veil of ‘procedural requirements.’ Let the ‘paradise on earth’ not be a gilded cage for its inhabitants. Freedom should be their undeniable reality – freedom to learn, to work, to explore, to fly, to be.
The writer can be reached at [email protected]