“Incredible India”. With that slogan, the country with 1.4 billion inhabitants is trying to attract more tourists. What 68-year-old Michel Stenuit from the Charleroi region experienced last month was indeed unbelievable. But in a negative sense. “India is a beautiful country. But I won’t go back there,” he says. “They can just hold you there.”
After a visit to Amritsar, in Punjab in northern India, he and two traveling companions would take a stopover flight for the next leg of their 28-day tour, which took them to New Delhi, among other places. But something went wrong at the security checkpoint. Suddenly the customs officer started nervously calling around, he says. Michel and his friends did not understand what the problem was. Their papers were in order and they had nothing in their luggage that was not allowed. However, communication was very difficult, because the customs officers only spoke the local dialect and no English.
The problem turned out to be Stenuit’s ten-year-old Garmin GPS. A device that he has taken with him on all his trips and with which he has never had any problems. But the security services in India saw it differently and did not trust it. They saw it as sophisticated spy material. That type of device from the American multinational Garmin is banned, as it turns out. But he didn’t know that.
Missed half the trip
Stenuit’s luggage was removed from the old plane on which they would make a stopover flight and his papers were taken. The Belgian was ‘locked up’ in a hotel. For how long, they couldn’t say. “Until the investigation was completed,” he said bluntly. He couldn’t get out before.
The Belgian adventurer was hardly questioned given the language problem. The GPS was confiscated for further investigation. Ultimately, Planet India, the tour operator with whom they booked the trip, found a lawyer in Amritsar. He ensured that Stenuit received his papers back after fifteen days. But the incident caused him to miss half the program. Strangely enough, he was also not allowed to leave Punjab by plane, but it is not clear to him why. He could only go by train, so he also missed his return flight.
Lots of costs
Nicolas Fierens Gevaert, spokesperson for the FPS Foreign Affairs, confirms that they have been informed and that the Belgian embassy in New Delhi has provided consular assistance to our compatriot. “But we do not communicate further because it concerns an individual file.”
The unexpected adventure touched him, says Michel Stenuit. And it also cost him a lot of money. In addition to the extra ticket costs, he also had to pay extra for the 15 days he was ‘imprisoned’ in the hotel and he also had to cough up more than 1,000 euros for the legal settlement of his case. Even though in the end nothing could be blamed on him.
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