Official abusing visa seeker: Indian-American community demands toll-free helpline for diaspora

Team Udayavani, Dec 3, 2021, 12:43 PM IST


Washington: There is an urgent need to establish a toll-free global helpline for the fast-growing Indian diaspora that now numbers 32 million, an eminent Indian-American community activist said on Thursday in view of an incident of an official abusing a visa seeker at the Indian Consulate in New York.

The short video of the incident has now gone viral and has been seen by several lakh people over various social media platforms. The Indian Consulate in New York has instituted a disciplinary proceeding against the officer.

The woman, who is seen being threatened by the consulate official, and her husband, finally received the visa to travel to India to attend her father’s last rites.

Community activist Prem Bhandari said this is an endemic problem at Indian diplomatic missions across the world.

New York-based Bhandari, who has been taking up cases of Indians living abroad on issues related to visas and passports for years, said officials handling visas and passports at Indian diplomatic missions are not appropriately trained to interact with the people who come to them in distress.

“No doubt, under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, things have improved tremendously over the past years. We have a long way to go on how our own people are being treated at Indian diplomatic missions. I receive a number of complaints like this on a daily basis. New York Consulate is not an exception to this,” he said.

“Whatever the reason is, the manner in which the visa officer at Indian Consulate in New York is seen behaving in the video is unpardonable. It is important that the Indian government should take steps to ensure that this is not repeated at any of our diplomatic missions. They are public servants, and this video certainly does not reflect that,” Bhandari said.

“Given the fast-growing needs of Indians living overseas, who now number 32 million, it would be best for the Indian government to establish a global toll-free number, where an Indian diaspora member can call and get help without fear. I am saying this because of the scores of calls, texts and emails that I receive from the diaspora on a weekly basis,” he said.

“Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi has done so much for the Indian diaspora, including simplification of visa and passport system and also the OCI cards. We have a lot of expectations from him,” he said, stressing that there is an urgent need to address the issue of how our own government officials treat and handle our own people.

“Under no circumstances, police can be called against our own people,” Bhandari said.

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