Consular Services to Overseas Indians: Ensuring Effective & Efficient Delivery

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Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD) is celebrated on 9 January every year to strengthen the engagement of the overseas Indian community with the Government, reconnect them with their roots and celebrate their achievements and contributions. PBD is celebrated on January 9 as it was on this day in 1915 that Mahatma Gandhi, the greatest Pravasi, returned to India from South Africa to lead India’s freedom struggle.

In 2015 the Government of India revised the format of PBD and re-energized its engagement with the Indian Diaspora to enable sustained and more substantive engagement. Following the review, the PBD Convention will be held once in two years in a city outside Delhi. In the intervening year, smaller, outcome-based PBD Conferences will be organized in New Delhi on issues of concern to the Indian Diaspora. It was decided that Indian Missions and Consulates will also celebrate PBD every year.

Through the first series of PBD Conferences which commenced in February 2016 the Government is proactively engaging with the Overseas Indians in an issue-based dialogue.

As a run up to PBD 2017, 10 PBD Conferences (panel discussions) have been held in 2016 on issues of importance to the Indian Diaspora. Domain experts from the Diaspora, and stakeholders and policy makers based in India have been invited for day-long deliberations on various topics. Their recommendations have been submitted to the Government of India for consideration. At the 14th PBD Convention in January 2017, each PBD Conference will present their recommendations, and the Action Taken Report to PBD delegates for their suggestions and comments.

The 14th PBD Convention January 2017:

PBD 2017 which will focus on the theme “Redefining engagement with the Indian Diaspora will

  • Provide a platform for connecting with the Diaspora.
  • Address issues of concern to the Indian Diaspora and seek their insights and suggestions.
  • Deepen engagement with the young Diaspora and reconnect them with their roots.
Background for Plenary Session I (ii)
This session on “Consular Services to Overseas Indians: Ensuring Effective & Efficient Delivery aims to highlight the issues and action taken by MEA to streamline consular services delivery.  
Under the PBD 2016 Conference in New Delhi on 29 March 2016 a panel discussion titled “Consular Services to Overseas Indians: Ensuring Effective & Efficient Delivery was organised with the participation of stakeholders including representatives of diaspora and policy makers.

The Session was chaired by Hon'ble EAM who shared that the government attaches great importance to sympathetic and efficient delivery to consular services. She mentioned that this is done through the Indian Missions and also social media platforms particularly Twitter. There is a continuous effort to look at creative approaches to expand the reach of the Ministry and to develop effective solutions to resolve grievances.

She further mentioned that an important step in this direction was the introduction in 2015 of a comprehensive Consular Grievance Management System named MADAD to effectively track and redress grievances. Secondly the e-Migrate platform, provides an efficient and transparent recruitment process for Emigration Check Required (ECR) category.

EAM invited innovative suggestions from participants on:

  • Problems faced in delivery of consular services
  • Suggestions to streamline issuance of visas and reissue of passports by Embassies and Consulates
  • Enhancing access to Embassies and Consulates
  • Regulating recruiting agents
  • Enhancing assistance to vulnerable sections of the Indian diaspora
  • Instituting location independent platform to meet attestation needs of Indians.

Some important recommendations made by the participants were:

  • PIO to OCI card conversion should be automatic and uniform across Missions
  • Efficient, convenient and online registration for foreigners visiting India
  • Simplification of the nationality renunciation process
  • Simplified OCI policy for fresh applicants and extending OCI cards for Indian origin people beyond 4th generation.
  • Consular Services charter covering procedures and timelines foruniform service delivery
  • Modernise attestation process to make it people friendly and location independent
  • Extending voting facility, Aadhaar and Pan Cards to NRIs in consultation with Election Commission.
  • Improving the database of Indian community through automatic registration with Indian Mission.
  • Streamline process of emigration and regulate recruiting agents
  • Creative usage of ICWF funds
  • Rationalise list of countries where Indian Missions are concurrently accredited and scope for appointing Honorary Consul
  • Proactive publicity for new initiatives and success stories related to consular services

The recommendations of the PBD Conference were submitted for their consideration and follow-up.

The Plenary Session at the 14th PBD will focus on:

  • The comprehensive Consular Grievance Management System, evocatively named MADAD, initiated in 2015 by MEA, in order to effectively track and redress grievances
  • The e-Migrate platform, to provide efficiency and transparency to the process of recruitment of Emigration Check Required (ECR) category Indian workers for overseas employment
  • Streamlining the issuance of visas and reissue of passports by our Embassies and Consulates, enhancing access to our Embassies and Consulates and making them more responsive to public expectations
  • Process of ensuring an effective system for registration of Indian nationals
  • Ease of issuance of OCI Cards, conversion of PIO Cards to OCI Cards, simplification of the nationality renunciation process.