As Vijay Mallya has left the country, questions have arisen about the security lapse that allowed him to do so. A look at incidents in the past few years involving environmental activists shows that the government is certainly able to control entry into and exit from the country of individuals it considers undesirable.
On January 11, 2015, for instance, Greenpeace activist Priya Pillai was stopped at Delhi on the basis of her inclusion in a database of persons not allowed to leave the country. The activist was on her way to London to speak on the violation of forest rights of tribals in Madhya Pradesh. Her inclusion in the no-travel database was justified by the Government on the pretext that her actions would create a “negative image” of India and would “whittle down foreign direct investments”.
The situation was eventually resolved by the intervention of the Delhi High Court, which directed authorities to expunge the “offload” remark on her passport and remove her name from the database. The judgement by Justice Rajiv Shakdher said, “Criticism, by an individual, may not be palatable; even so, it cannot be muzzled.”
Just a few months later, in June, a Greenpeace activist, Aaron Gray-Block, was denied entry into the country at Bengaluru airport, where he arrived from Sydney. Although Gray-Block had a valid business visa, his name featured in a Home Ministry “black list”. According to the article in The Hindu, Gray-Block had earlier campaigned against mining of the Mahan coal block in Madhya Pradesh and had written several articles and blogs criticising the Indian government.
Earlier, in 2012, a German national, Sonnteg Reiner Hermann, was deported for helping to raise funds for protests against the Kudankulam nuclear plant in Tamil Nadu. The German, who was in the country on a tourist visa, had his visa cancelled for indulging in “anti-national activities”.
Clearly then, policing individuals entering and leaving the country is not a task beyond the means of the government. How, then, was such a lapse possible in Mallya’s instance?