Indian High Commission activities for public outreach
Steps are being undertaken by the High Commission in reaching out to the Indian community to ameliorate their concerns so that the High Commission can deliver better public services. As a part of Indian High Commission’s initiatives to reach out to the Indian and British-Indian community in the UK, the High Commissioner met the Indian and British Indian community on May 7, 2014 at India House to brief them about the recent initiatives undertaken by the High Commission to better serve the public. The High Commissioner also met the Indian students studying in the UK on May 2, 2014. As the number of Indian students in the UK runs into thousands, it is not possible to meet all the students at the same time. However, students represented a majority of colleges/universities where there is a large concentration of Indian students.
The High Commission team led by the High Commissioner Mr Ranjan Mathai met a group of 10 persons who started an online petition. The meeting was proposed by the High Commission on 28 April or in the first week of May. However, the petitioners proposed a later date in view of tube strike and also they informed the High Commission that they would need time to prepare themselves. Finally, May 12 was convenient for a meeting.
A gist of the interaction of the High Commissioner with the above interactions with the community as part of outreach programme and feedback with a view to provide better services and improve upon our existing passport, consular services, OCI and PIO facilities as follows:
- A Public Response Unit has been created to coordinate the High Commission’s response to a large number of queries received from Indian nationals and Persons of Indian Origin in the UK. The queries are received and responded both telephonically and e-mail. The initiative has been very well received and, on an average, around 600 enquiries are responded every week by the Unit. Contact details of the Unit have been prominently put on the official website of the Mission.
- An Open House is held every Wednesday to personally hear the problems/grievances of the public. Further, the officers concerned are available to meet the public in person as and when required. In addition, the High Commissioner has decided to hold Open House on a monthly basis.
- Recently, responding to the increasing demand, the Mission has launched a system that allows booking of appointment online for the submission of OCI applications in person. This initiative has been highly appreciated by the public as it has reduced the waiting time at the Mission’s premises.
- The Mission has re-started surgeries in different parts of the country where services are provided to them in their own cities. This also affords an opportunity to meet members of the Indian community to get a first-hand feedback. The first surgery was undertaken in Belfast in April 2014. Further surgeries are planned beginning with Cardiff followed by Manchester.
- The website of the Mission is updated regularly to inform the public about the procedures, guidelines and requirements as well as any changes in the regulations. The public is advised to visit the High Commission’s website which is comprehensive and updated. The website address is : www.hcilondon.in In order to facilitate faster services to the public, the timings for different services have been staggered in order to avoid overcrowding at the premises.
- The process for outsourcing of collection and delivery for various services including passport, visa, OCI, PIO and various other consular services has been initiated. Presently, only visa service is outsourced. It is expected that the whole process will be completed by November/December this year.
- In order to avoid inconvenience to the public, the Mission has since commenced delivery of OCI cards by post. This has reduced crowd in the premises and also has helped in providing better services with a greater satisfaction to the public.
Whilst the High Commission has taken the above steps to provide prompt and quick services to the public one must also understand that they also have limited resources at the disposal of the High Commission. It is great to know that the High Commission is fully aware of the current issues and are open to suggestions and feedback from the public.