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Monday, April 26, 2010

Edition 16: Pune: A Home for Foreigners

Mainly owing to the vicinity of Mumbai and then for other many reasons, Pune always enjoyed a repute among foreigners as the friendly city. People from all ethnicities came here to visit the city, to stay here. This was evident from the history. Many of these persons contributed immensely to the growth of the city as also emergence of Pune as a centre of education. ­­ After hosting a large flock of foreign students over the years, the city began to see an increasing number of foreign visitors who are not students. Records show that foreigners who come to the city for non-academic purposes are growing in the last five years. Known as the Oxford of the East, the city boasts of a large number of foreign-national students. The number has been on the rise. Yet, the growth seems to be downwards on percentage basis as records show increasing number of non-student foreign national visiting the city. The records available with Foreigners’ Registration Branch show that 4,214 students registered in 2007 as compared to 3,445 students in 2006, which shows a growth of 22 per cent. In 2005, the number of students registered was 3,784, while in 2004, the number was 2,900. This shows that number of foreign student dropped in 2006 while 2005 had witnessed a growth of almost 30 per cent. At the same period, overall foreign visitors increased relatively. In 2007, there have been 6,153 visitors compared to 5,024 in the previous year. That amounts to a growth of 22.5 per cent. The growth in the preceding year was In this background, the recent announcement by R. R. Patil, state home minister that government will check the records of foreigners and seek character certificates from their respective countries sounds disappointing. No, we are not questioning the decision. It is only that such a move will put a comma on the free environment that all of us were used to till now. Patil made this announcement while replying to a calling-attention motion on last month's German Bakery blast in Pune. The issue was raised by the Shiv Sena's Neelam Gorhe. Patil said, "We have already started checking foreigners' visas and taking action against suspect people." The police already have a rule in place that requires flat-owners in Mumbai to inform them if they give out their premises toforeigners. Hotels and lodges in the city have also been told to inform the police about guests from abroad. Paradoxically, while genuine public and tourists suffer from government’s moves, the real culprits always manage to get scot free. In the case of David Hedley, he came twice in Pune, made recce of many installations and police were caught napping. If now the administration decides to fasten its belts, it is a welcome move. Whatever shape the government’s action might take, it should not take away the shine away from the Pune. The city was a home to the persons of repute, of action without taking into account the person’s ethnic credentials. The custom must go on, in typical Puneri style!

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