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Chhattisgarh Forest Minister Mahesh Gagda, who was to lead a delegation of officials on a study tour to the US later this month, today claimed he has been denied visa by the American Consulate, even as other members of the team were given permission to travel. Notably, Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh is at present on an official tour of the US. Gadga, who was to visit Washington DC on December 16 along with the government officials, claimed he was flatly told by the authorities in the US Consulate in Hyderabad yesterday that he would not get a visa. Irked over this, the minister has taken up the matter with the External Affairs minister Sushma Swaraj and written a letter to her, even as the study tour has been called off for now. "The US Consulate, Hyderabad had called me for an interview yesterday (November 30), after I had applied for a visa. But, after the interview they said I will not get a visa," Gadga told reporters. He claimed that he was not told the reason for the visa refusal, although other officials in the delegation were granted visa. Explaining the purpose behind the proposed study tour, he said Prime Minister Narendra Modi had inaugurated Nandanvan Zoo and Jungle Safari at Naya Raipur on November 1 and near this site a botanical garden is also planned to be developed. "With a view to develop both these centers as international tourist destinations, the government had decided to send a delegation of officials to the US to study zoos, safaris and botanical gardens there," he said. Accordingly, the minister and the forest officials had applied for the visa. "While answering their (US Consulate) queries during the interview yesterday, I informed that a delegation led by me is proposed to visit USA for study and discussion.
For the purpose, we have also received an invitation from Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (Washington DC)," Gagda said. "Besides, I also replied to other questions, but they denied visa to me. Although other officials, who were part of the delegation along with me, were given visa," he added. "I have informed about it in a letter to External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj," Gagda, BJP MLA from the naxal-affected Bijapur constituency in Bastar region, said. The study tour has been called off and the minister said after this incident, he has vowed never to apply for the US visa.
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