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Interaction of Ambassador Nirupama Rao with Indian Community on Consular Matters

The Embassy of India organized a Consular "Adalat", an outreach to the Indian community on Consular matters, at the Embassy premises on September 18.  Over 75 Representatives from various Indian Associations attended the event  chaired by Ambassador Nirupama Rao.  In her opening remarks, Ambassador Rao explained the significance of the Consular outreach program to engage the community on matters relating to Passport, Visa, OCI/PIO and Miscellaneous services.  She outlined various measures taken to improve the consular services at the embassy and at the outsourcing agency locations.  She narrated her personal visits to the consular reception area and discussions with applicants which led to giving a new look to the consular section. Facilities for emergency visa services are extended to cover all holidays.  While recognizing current challenges relating to the new outsourcing agency, Ambassador Rao listed out efforts being made by the embassy to bring in more professionalism in the services of the agency.  Ambassador also made a mention of her efforts to take up with concerned Ministries in the Govt of India to further liberalize restrictions on extending consular services to those in asylum  category.  Suggestions made by the community members on further improving OCI cards have also been sent to concerned authorities and are in active consideration of the Government, Ambassador added.  
Community leaders sought clarifications on a number of issues relating to functioning of the Outsourcing agency, BLS International, processing of Renunciation certificate, liberalization of restrictions in services to Asylees, changes in rules relating to OCI cards, etc.  Consular officers clarified many of the doubts and explained the reasons for various procedures.  It was also reiterated that there are no changes in OCI rules.  The requirement of changing the OCI cards after attaining the age of 50 years and for the children completing 20 years of age are part of the existing rules and no new rules have been framed.  Ambassador appreciated some of the suggestions and instructed consular officers to make the instructions on the website more clear while giving a link to applicants to ask further clarifications, if any.  BLS Country Representative Mr. Rattan Whigg, who also attended the Adalat, assured that the feed back given by the community leaders would be used to improve their services.  Association leaders from cities like Philadelphia and Dallas also attended besides those from the Greater Washington area.  Those who could not travel from other states sent in questions through their representatives.  
DCM Taranjit Singh Sandhu also addressed the meeting.  
Benoy Thomas, the community leader who coordinated the event, thanked Ambassador Rao for organizing the Consular Adalat which provided a platform to the community to air their questions/grievances and get on the spot clarifications.  He requested the Embassy to organize such functions more frequently and in various locations.  .