SBI bags India visa outsourcing job in Nepal

By Sudeshna Sarkar, IANS,

Kathmandu : After more than five decades of accepting applications for Indian visa, the Indian embassy here will now outsource the job to Nepal SBI, a joint venture of the State Bank of India (SBI).

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Indian ambassador Rakesh Sood Wednesday inaugurated the new Indian Visa Service Centre at Karpurdhara Marg close to the embassy. It will start handling from Thursday visa applications by foreign tourists in Nepal who want to proceed to India from here.

This is the second Indian visa outsourcing contract bagged by SBI, which is also handling the job in Dhaka.

Security was one of the primary concerns for outsourcing the job.

The Indian embassy has often been in the eye of storms with demonstrations occurring in front of it. With 80-100 applications received daily, the embassy gets a regular flow of visitors, putting pressure on the security apparatus.

The new procedure would also speed up the visa process, Nepal SBI officials said. Transit visa would now be issued on the same day.

“Since we are a bank, we handle monetary transactions faster and more professionally,” said Chhabi Raj Panta, manager at Nepal SBI. “Also, since the Indian embassy has its account with us, the fee paid for visa has to come to us eventually.”

Nepal SBI also handles the disbursement of the various scholarships given by the Indian government in Nepal.

Each year, it leads to the opening of nearly 500-700 new accounts at the joint venture in which SBI recently upped its stake to 55 percent. While the Nepal government’s Employees Provident Fund holds 15 percent shares, the rest are held by Nepali individuals.

The visa office marks the sixth extension counter for the bank that started operations in Nepal in 1993.

The second Indian joint venture in Nepal’s banking sector, the Everest Bank Ltd (EBL), however, is yet to get the Indian government’s bounty.

The Punjab National Bank holds 30 percent stake in EBL while the remaining shares belong to Nepali citizens.

The inauguration of the new visa centre comes after Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao visited Nepal and expressed New Delhi’s concern over security, especially terror activities targeting India.

In India, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has said that there was growing infiltration by militant groups from several routes, including Nepal.