Indian bureaucrats and ministers weren’t known for their work culture and India embassies abroad, in particular, were often looked upon as unapproachable and unfriendly. Well, May 2014 changed all that. After the present Government took over we have seen several ministries becoming much more efficient than before.

One of the best performing ministers in PM Modi’s cabinet is undoubtedly External Affair Minister (EAM) Mrs Sushma Swaraj. There have been numerous instances when has come to the rescue of Indians stranded abroad or to family members of those who have faced tragedies in a foreign land. A team always looks up to its leader for inspiration. When someone leads from the front, then automatically those under him or her are compelled, rather inspired, to go that extra mile and work better. Mrs Sushma is inspiring in more ways than one. Despite recuperating from kidney transplant operation, she has been ensuring that her ministry is performing its duty diligently.

Anyone facing any kind of trouble, either to travel to India or while travelling abroad from India has only to tweet to the minister and they can rest assured that their work would be done. Recently, a foreign magazine even lauded her ‘novel Twitter diplomacy’. Earlier Indians travelling abroad would not approach embassies there due to the hostile nature of the staff. Those travelling abroad, especially to the West, earlier were skeptical in asking aid from Indian embassies and even remarked in no uncertain terms that they would rather go anywhere but to Indian embassies in case of trouble because the staff wouldn’t even respond properly let alone solve their issues.

Sushma Swaraj has taken a big step and started Twitter SEVA for all Indian embassies around the world. She said :

“We are adopting a new pattern here. Pl (please) tweet your problem to the concerned Indian Embassy/authority and endorse the same to @sushmaswaraj.”

“I will monitor their response to your tweets personally,” she said in a series of tweets.”

Now, however, we have a minister who not only responds to plea on Twitter but ensures that the nation is kept informed of the action taken. In addition, the minister herself makes sure that things are done. We may recall here how she had arranged for visa of a Pakistani girl so that the latter could get operated here. In another instance she reached out to help a widow, who had lost her husband in Japan recently. Not only did Mrs. Sushma respond to Swati Maliwal’s (Chairperson, Delhi Commission for Women) request but also assured that the Government would bear all the expenses for aiding the widow without any delay.

Recently, she arranged for the bodies of Abis Hasan Rizvi and Khushi Shah from Gujarat to be flown from Istanbul to Mumbai via Turkish airlines. The two are unfortunate victims of Reina nightclub bombing in Istanbul. She even arranged visas for bereaved family members. Such gestures definitely alleviate the pain of the families in their moment of grief and tragedy.

This is the first instance where an External Affairs Minister has shown an exemplary level of involvement and informed the nation about the death of its citizen in terror attack abroad. Just last week she had arranged visas for two people of Indian origin, one residing in Toronto and the other in Chicago. While the former’s mother had suffered a stroke, the latter’s father had died and he was finding it difficult to get visa to travel to India.

This points out that the Government not only cares about its citizens but also values their lives. It assures citizens that they do matter and their lives aren’t cheap. Earlier, people were of the opinion that embassy staff was busy partying and having a good time rather than helping them out. This new approach has now replaced the dull and uninspiring one of India’s diplomatic corps. It is such gestures that boost the confidence of Indians in foreign land. Surely Mrs Sushma Swaraj needs to be lauded for her splendid performance as External Affairs Minister.

PS: It would be great if the embassy staff perform their duty without the minister having to interfere and instruct them. After all the role of Indian embassies the world over is to aide Indians in those countries, both residents and travellers, during their times of trouble.


Latha Iyer