The Indian High Commission yesterday began a 12-day “Eid Visa Camp” to help Bangladeshis get visas with ease if they wish to travel to the neighbouring country during the upcoming Eid-ul-Fitr.
On the first day, several thousand people flocked to the camp set up at New Chancery Complex, High Commission of India, in the capital's Baridhara and submitted their tourist visa applications without a prior appointment date or e-token.
The camp, first of its kind in the history of Bangladesh-India relations, saw an overwhelming response as people seeking visa could just walk into the premises with all the required documents and submit their applications at the special counters opened for the camp by the Indian Visa Application Centre.
The visa seekers were given e-token instantly.
Such a move reflects the magnitude of Indian visa operations in Bangladesh, said Indian High Commissioner to Bangladesh Harsh Vardhan Shringla.
The High Commission here issues the largest number of visas compared to any other Indian missions anywhere in the world and probably grants visas more than any other mission in Bangladesh, he said while speaking at the inaugural session.
"It's another sign of strengthening people-to-people ties. Through such an initiative, the relations between the two countries will further be strengthened," Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan said, while addressing the function as the chief guest.
Indian visa seekers normally fill in an application form and submit it online to get an appointment date but the procedure gets troublesome because of heavy traffic on the designated website. And so people seek help of unauthorised agents or middlemen to get appointment dates and e-token for at least Tk 3,000 to Tk 4,000.
The visa camp will remain open until June 16 (except June 10 that is Friday) from 8:00am to 2:00pm.
During the inauguration, three people won couple tickets by lottery of Jet Airways on the routes -- Dhaka-Kolkata-Dhaka, Dhaka-Delhi-Dhaka and Dhaka-Mumbai-Dhaka.
Jet Airways is also offering exclusive discounts for booking tickets at the camp.
"We know people in Bangladesh would like to visit India during the Eid holidays. We want India to be your most preferred destination because we are the closest neighbours," the Indian envoy said.
State Minister for Foreign Affairs Md Shahriar Alam, who was the special guest, said visa issues had been discussed with the Indian side that gave an assurance of making the process easier and hassle-free.
"This [visa camp] is a very brave and challenging move," he said, thanking the Indian High Commission for the initiative.