Visa curbs against Maldivians hit hospital industry in State
By Byju Aryad | Published: 03rd January 2013 09:35 AM |
The hospital industry in Kerala, which was promoting medical tourism, will be badly hit with the External Affairs Ministry imposing restrictions on visa on arrival facility for the Maldivian citizens.
The majority of Maldivians come to Thiruvananthapuram, Kochi and Chennai for medical needs as specialised treatment facility is not available in their country. It is estimated that around 45,000 people arrive in Kerala annually for treatment and tourism purposes.
The bilateral visa agreement between the two countries has now been limited for tourism purposes. The issue cropped up after the Maldives government cancelled the contract for the Male airport it had signed with Indian company GMR in June 2010.
Later, the state-owned Maldives Airport Co. Ltd, which was running the airport earlier, took it over.
First secretary at the Consulate of the Maldives in Thiruvananthapuram, Mohamed Farhad, told Express that the Indian Government’s decision had created confusion among the people. Earlier, those who wanted to come for medical purposes did not need a visa and they were able to stay in India for 90 days.
‘’Now, tourists are allowed free visa while others have to apply for visa to come to India for medical or any other purposes. The number of applications received for visa had been restricted to 40 and later it was increased to 50 a day,’’ Mohamed Farhad said.
Long queues are seen in front of the Indian Embassy offices to apply for the visa. The worst affected are those who are staying in remote areas of Maldives. It will take nearly a week to process the visa and those who need immediate medical attention too have to suffer. The majority of those who are still in Kerala are not aware of the development between the two countries, he said.
E M Najeeb, executive director, Kerala Institute of Medical Science (KIMS), said that the people of Maldives will be the worst affected along with the hospital industry in Kerala. For all the medical needs, including surgeries, they depend on Kerala.
The slowdown on arrival will also partially affect the economy of the state as several other businesses are thriving with the support of these people.
‘’The lodges in and around Thiruvananthapuram Medical College and other hospitals are occupied by the Maldivians and the business connected with their stay may be hit. “When a person arrives in Kerala, he or she is accompanied by the family members also,’’ he said.
According to Najeeb, the arrivals will decrease in the coming days and the number of patients in the hospitals will also come down.
Indian Medical Association state president Dr Devadas said the hospitals too will be affected.
There are no authentic records on the number of Maldivians approaching the hospitals for treatment, he added.