By Swami Jyotirmayananda
New York: A friend of mine surrendered his and his wife’s passports on October 26, 2010, paying a fee of $175 to the Consulate General of India in New York. The surrender certificates were received only after a month, on November 26, 2010, preceded by several reminders and phone calls. On November. 26, 2010, he applied for the OCI Cards, paying a fee of $275. Even after six weeks his two applications have neither been acknowledged, nor have they been registered. Waiting in suspense for six weeks, he had to apply for visa (for him and his wife), paying the necessary fee of $247, and incurring conveyance, to and fro New York, $160, thus, altogether spending $857 since the time he surrendered his Passport. Normally, he gets a little break after December and thereafter he is busily engaged in his various duties and responsibilities. So he was anxious to visit India within the shortest span possible when he gets the usual break after December.
On his behalf, I visited the office of the Consulate General of New York, on December 23, 2010. Earlier, for two days I had tried to call the office, through their available phone numbers, but the phones kept ringing without any response. This was when I used a land-line. And when I used my cell phone, I got the message “call rejected.” Needless to say I was perplexed. I am unable to understand why this should happen in the case of an important office like that of the CGI, supposed to be devoted to the service of NRIs? Calling their office by phone was so frustrating that I gave it up and decided to visit it in person.
On arrival at the main entrance of the Consulate, which I found closed during their office hours (at about 3.30 p.m.), I called their receptionist through the speaker-phone on the left-side wall near the front door, and introduced myself, informing him about the purpose of my visit. But he wouldn’t allow me to enter the reception on the pretext that I did not call and fix up an appointment beforehand. He, therefore, tried to give me a phone number and asked me to call the office from outside the entrance where I was standing. This looked ridiculous. For the past two days I had tried to call their office, but no one responded. And, now when I stand in front of their main entrance, the receptionist says I should call by phone and get an appointment before entering the office! How this could be possible? Either the reception should receive our calls made from outside, before we visit the office, or, at least, when we come to their door, they should have the courtesy to allow us inside, so that from the reception we can call the officials concerned and tell them the purpose of our visit, to explore the possibility of meeting them. It is unfortunate that I could do neither, and was stranded in front of the main entrance of their building for nearly 45 minutes in the biting cold, without proper response from the receptionist. At this rate, I wonder what sort of service their office renders to the needy NRIs in and around New York!
I don’t think that any other Consulate will ever treat people with such scant regard as the office of the Indian Consulate does. All such thoughts passed through my mind as I stood in front of their main door for almost 45 minutes even as the cold wind was blowing and freezing my fingers and making them numb, in spite of gloves! And, to cap it all, the receptionist sitting in his cozy reception, asks me through the speaker-phone to note down the phone number and call from outside the door that is just in front of him! I wonder, what prevented him from calling me inside to make inquiries. Should the Indian Consulate punish a visitor so badly, for no fault of his? Is it proper on its part to make a visitor stand in front of their door for so long a time, that too in the biting cold of the winter?
After an ordeal of 45 minutes outside the door of the Consulate, I was finally let inside and I met the DCG, who told me that the needful will be done, and on December 24, 2010, he also sent a brief email message to me which read: “All visitors seeking meeting are given on phone. It is strange that your call was rejected. Anyway, your application will be processed expeditiously.”
On December 28, 2010, when I did not hear anything from their office, I once again wrote to the DCG, to let me know the position of the applications and also to let me know how long it is likely to take to acknowledge/register them. In reply, DCG just passed the buck to the Consul (OCI), with his short message which read: “Please advise him position.” I then wrote to the Consul (OCI), to let me know where the matter stands. When I did not hear from him, I again reminded him on December 29: “Sorry to inform you that the applications have not been registered as on date (till Dec. 29, 2010). Please therefore let me know soon where the matter stands, i.e., let me know the position of the applications dt. 26th Nov. 2010.” But there is no response till today ( January 19).