For over 30 days, seven Indians have been stuck in Tanzania because the Tanzanian President seized their passports.
On 3 March 2017, the President visited the site of a water project. He saw that there has been little progress made and this apparently made him very unhappy. He immediately and abruptly directed the immigration officers to seize the passports of the foreign employees.
The Logical Indian spoke to Richa Shukla, whose father works for the Mumbai-based infrastructure company Overseas Infrastructure Alliance Pvt. Ltd. (OIA). Her father, Rajendra Kumar, a retired colonel from the Indian Army, is among the seven Indians stuck in Tanzania, and he is also the Project Head.
“My father has been working with OIA for two years,” Richa said. “He works out of Tanzania. He handles water projects for the company – the company is an infrastructure company, it builds water pipes and roads. For the past few years, the Government of Tanzania has been contracting infrastructure projects to them.”
For the last one year, one particular water project remained incomplete and delayed. This culminated in the Tanzanian President seizing the passports of the employees. Col. Kumar kept repeating to the President and the immigration authorities that they were just employees and not contractors, that it was not their fault that the company was not releasing funds – but to no avail.
The Logical Indian spoke to Col. Kumar over a WhatsApp call. He said that delays are not unnatural in such projects. “In fact, it took 10 months for even the land for the project to be provided to us because of local issues. Unexpected delays are a part and parcel of such infrastructure projects.”
Col. Kumar said, “There are seven of us – all Indians. Since our passports were seized on 3 March, we have tweeted to and emailed the External Affairs Ministry and the PMO. I also spoke to General VK Singh over the phone and voiced our grievances. I spoke with the High Commissioner yesterday. – he said he has been trying to get an appointment with the Tanzanian President for the past two weeks. So far, we have not heard back from any of the authorities. They claim that the President is either busy or travelling. Meanwhile, the Indian authorities have not reached back to us.”
Over a month since that incident, the Indians stuck in Tanzania and their families in India have reached out to Sushma Swaraj, VK Singh, and the Prime Minister’s Office. “Nobody is responding,” Richa said. “My father is stuck in Tanzania without his passport – seizing passports is illegal – and he does not know what will happen next. We are under extreme duress right now. My father is stuck there. This is absolute harassment.”
When The Logical Indian contacted OIA, the parent company, for comment, their spokesperson told us that the company was trying its best to help the seven Indians stuck in Tanzania. He said, “In the contract signed between the company and the Tanzanian government, nowhere is it mentioned that you can detain somebody by holding their passports.” The company reportedly contacted the High Commission in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania; authorities told them that they are “working” on the issue.
We tried to contact the Tanzanian High Commission in New Delhi. However, there was no response from either of their numbers.
Col. Kumar is frustrated with OIA and their lack of an urgent response. The situation is particularly dire for Col. Kumar and one of the other Indians – Shiv Sagar. Col. Kumar has a sister who is seriously ill and Mr Sagar’s 80-year-old father was recently admitted to a hospital. Both of them urgently need to return to India but they cannot since their passports were seized.
“Now,” Col. Kumar said, “for the project to be completed, it will take four to five more months. Are we expected be remain here away from our families for all that time? This is completely unfair and unwarranted. We should be released right now. We just want to return home.”
The Logical Indian appeals to the Tanzanian authorities to return the passports to the seven Indians. We also appeal to the External Affairs Ministry and the External Affairs Minister Smt. Sushma Swaraj to look into the issue urgently so that the seven Indians are able to return home to their families as soon as possible.
We urge our readers to kindly tweet to the External Affairs Minister (@SushmaSwaraj) and the External Affairs Ministry (@MEAIndia and @IndianDiplomacy) and share this story so that the seven Indians get back their passports.
If pressed for time, readers can simply copy-paste the below line and tweet/share the same so that authorities are alerted and take action.
@SushmaSwaraj Col Rajendra Kumar & 6 other Indians stuck in Tanzania. http://bit.ly/2nGWL0r They need our help. @MEAIndia @IndianDiplomacy