Initiates ‘Open Day’ to assist Indian nationals
NEW YORK: The Indian Consulate in New York will be outsourcing its passport services to VFS Global, beginning April 16. At a press briefing on March 28, Consul General of India in New York Ambassador Prabhu Dayal announced to reporters significant new steps being taken in consular services for the benefit of Indian nationals (NRIs) living in the US.
Passport services at the other Indian Consulates across the US will be outsourced in stages, Dayal said. VFS Global is a New York City based visa and passport services outsourcing firm, and handles this work in a number countries including India.
Indian nationals requiring passport services would be required to submit their passports to VFS Global, which collects and sends them to the Consulate for processing. The processed passports are then collected from the Consulate by VFS Global for delivery to respective applicants. Passports can be submitted to VFS Global by mail or in person.
This move was considered necessary mainly due to space constraints at the Consulate premises, Dayal said.
The Indian Consulates in the US have already been outsourcing their visa services through Travisa since September 2007 and their OCI/PIO Card services since February 2011. The contract with Travisa expires in September this year and there would be a fresh tendering process for a new contract as per Government of India guidelines, Dayal informed.
The other major initiative the Consul General announced was, beginning first week of April the Consulate in New York will have an “Open Day” whereby Indian nationals living here can approach the Consulate for redressing any issues they might have. Dayal said that the Open Day – which will be held every Thursday between 2 and 4 pm – is specifically for the benefit of Non-Resident Indians (Indian passport holders) and not Indian Americans (naturalized American citizens).
A designated officer (Vice Consul, Consular Services) will be assigned to man a particular counter on the Open Day, to meet people on a one-on-one basis.
The Open Day is primarily the initiative of India’s External Affairs Minister, in furtherance of the ‘Passport Adalats’ that have been introduced in India, Dayal said. “It is part of the Consulate’s public relations outreach and endeavor to assist Indian nationals abroad. We hope this step will have the desired effect of encouraging people to come over and talk to us with any issues.”
Other Indian Consulates in the US as also those across the globe would be introducing their own ‘Open Days’ in keeping with the Ministry’s initiative, Dayal added.
Typically, the Open Day forum would be helpful in addressing passport related issues and more significantly for Indian nationals in distress situations abroad. This facility will encourage Indian nationals to alert the Consulate to any kind of distress situation they might be in (such as run ins with the law enforcement agencies) so that the Consulate can contact the US authorities for necessary action, Dayal explained.
Dayal clarified that issues and problems of individuals other than NRIs would be dealt with routinely as they come, but not on the designated Open Day which is only for Indian nationals.
Responding to a question asking for comments on a recent ‘survey’ conducted by the Overseas Friends of BJP (OFBJP) among Indian Americans where majority of those surveyed expressed dissatisfaction with services of the Indian Consulates in the US, Ambassador Dayal said he was “dismayed” to read reports about the survey in the Indian media. Doubting the credibility of the survey, Dayal said it was not true that there are no facilities and amenities like water coolers and vending machines at Consulate offices as alleged in the survey report.
As for criticism of consular staff and Travisa’s handling of its services, Dayal said, “We are continually in touch with Travisa for encouraging them to be accessible and receptive to needs of Indian Americans. Also, sometimes new staff at the counters might be at fault, but sometimes the members of the public are also at fault.”
Dayal said that often it was the members of the public who are offensively rude and sometimes even abusive to the consular staff at the counters. “Fact is we are a public services rendering institution and we are bound to be under flak and criticized. But I can assure you my staff especially those at the counters are not rude.”
“Our inability to render a particular service does not mean our unwillingness to do it,” he added. “If we cannot do something it is because of rules and regulations.”
India Post News Service