NCAIA, Indian American community hosts ‘Ask the Embassy’ event

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September 30, 2013

Ambassador Rao, DCM Sandhu answer questions from community

Attendees from "Ask the Embassy – Consular Adalat" Event, September 18, 2013, Washington, D.C (Photo Credits: Stephen Kumar, Embassy of India)

September 30, 2013

Ambassador Rao, DCM Sandhu answer questions from community

Attendees from "Ask the Embassy – Consular Adalat" Event, September 18, 2013, Washington, D.C (Photo Credits: Stephen Kumar, Embassy of India)

WASHINGTON, DC: The National Council of Asian Indian Associations, in coordination with the Embassy of India and the Indian American community, hosted an “Ask the Embassy” event at the Embassy of India on September 18, 2013.

More than a hundred representatives from various Indian organizations attended the event.

Among the embassy officials who addressed the forum were Ambassador Nirupama Rao, Deputy Chief of Mission Taranjit Singh Sandhu, Minister of Consular Affairs N.A. Prasad, Community Affairs Minister Datta Padsalgikar and OCI Card division head Shiv Rattan.

Rattan Whigg, the country coordinator of BLS International, the company that processes passport, visa and OCI/PIO cards on behalf of the embassy, also spoke at the forum.

In her remarks, Rao spoke about the embassy’s outreach program on passport, visa, OCI/PIO and miscellaneous services. She pointed out that a number of measures have been taken to improve the consular services at the embassy and at BLS International offices.

Ambassador Nirupama Rao at "Ask the Embassy – Consular Adalat" Event, September 18, 2013, Washington, D.C (Photo Credits: Stephen Kumar, Embassy of India)

The ambassador told the gathering that she had made a personal visit to the consular office and met applicants, who gave her feedback. She also said that facilities for emergency visa services have been extended to cover all holidays.

Rao said she recognized the problems faced by applicants at the outsourcing agency, but efforts have been made to bring more “professionalism” in its services. The ambassador also mentioned her efforts to take up with concerned ministries to ease restrictions on extending consular services to those in asylum category. 

The ambassador added that the suggestions by the community on how to improve OCI cards have been relayed to the Government of India, and they are under consideration.

Participants asked the embassy officials a number of questions related to the functioning of BLS International, processing of renunciation certificate, liberalization of restrictions in services to Asylees and changes in rules relating to OCI cards, among other issues.

Consular Affairs Minister Prasad answered questions and explained the reasons for various consular procedures.  He told the forum that there are no changes in OCI rules. The requirement of changing the OCI cards after one reaches the age of 50 years and for the children on completing 20 years of age are part of the existing rules, he said. 

Rao answered questions related to the embassy’s website and instructed consular officers to make it more user-friendly. BLS’ Rattan Whigg told the forum that feedback by the community leaders would be used to improve its services. 

Deputy Chief of Mission Taranjit Singh Sandhu at "Ask the Embassy – Consular Adalat" Event, September 18, 2013, Washington, D.C (Photo Credits: Stephen Kumar, Embassy of India)

The forum was attended by leaders of various Indian organizations from different parts of the country, including Philadelphia and Dallas.

Questions sent by a number of community leaders who could not travel to Washington, DC, were also answered, and assurances were given that they would be followed up.

"Ask the Embassy – Consular Adalat" Event Coordinator (Photo Credits: Stephen Kumar, Embassy of India)

Indian American community leader Benoy Thomas, who coordinated the event, thanked the ambassador and embassy officials for taking the initiative and meeting with the community, providing a platform to the community to air their grievances and get on the spot clarifications.

He said that such forums will improve the communication between the embassy and the community, and they should be held more frequently, not just in Washington, but also in other consulate locations.


Community Special by MYDOSTI.COM article submitted by Benoy Thomas