Chandigarh: With India indefinitely suspending the issuance of visa services to Canadian nationals in the wake of the recent tension in India-Canada relationship, has left Punjabis living there as overseas nationals, their kin here as well as the students aspiring to go there, in a state of worry fearing hurdles in their travel.
Concerns Arise Among 9 Lakh Punjabi Canadians, Aspiring Students
According to available information, there are about nine lakh Punjabis working and living in Canada – more than 50% of whom are Sikhs – and most of whom have Canadian citizenship. The Punjabis there also mostly include thousands of students going there from Punjab annually – whose number was about 2 lakh annually before Covid-19 and has fallen to half since the pandemic.
Notably, the route to first study in Canada and then become permanent resident (PR) is among the most popular ways to get Canadian citizenship.
Clarification from Ministry of External Affairs Offers Limited Relief
However, Punjabis’ worry is despite the clarification by the ministry of external affairs (MEA) that the said stance on visa service for Canadian citizens was not about the travel to India for individuals with valid visas and the overseas citizens of India (OCI) cards as people with these valid documents would continue to be free to travel to India as usual.
For, the tens of thousands of Punjabis having Canadian citizenship, frequently tend to travel to their home state as they still have the connect with their roots, relatives and friends in Punjab.
Political Leaders Urge Resolution
Among the first to react to the situation was Shiromani Akali Dal chief Sukhbir Badal who also called on the Union home minister Amit Shah in the context and expressed concern.
He said in his post on X that this was set to create great hurdles, uncertainty and anxiety for Punjabis especially to members of the most patriotic community of the Sikhs …... The visa facility hurdles would particularly hit our youth who go to Canada in thousands as students every year and who are now residing there. He said he had been flooded with calls and messages from Punjabis in Canada and their families and relatives back home, seeking intervention to ensure safe and smooth travel to their homeland and urged the two countries' governments to find a solution to the matter at the earliest possible.
The Punjab Congress chief Amarinder Singh Raja Warring also expressed concern over the situation and urged the MEA to withdraw the step as it would create problems for Punjabis.