Dr Dnyaneshwar Mulay
By Vikas Vaidya:
Dr Dnyaneshwar Mulay, who served in the Ministry of External Affairs for over 35 years, is popularly known as Passport Man of India. He was in the city to deliver a lecture at a programme organised by Vidarbha Economic Development Council. The former Secretary of Ministry of Economic Affairs took out time to speak to ‘The Hitavada’. Excerpts:
Considering your vast experience while working in consulates outside the country, have you noticed any change or improvement in Indian foreign policy? If yes, then has that change made things easier for Indian personnel working abroad?
Yes. The change is there. I attribute it to Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj who is sensitive, sensible and compassionate too. She always ensures to get redressed the grievances of Indians living abroad. She knows every officer in embassies by his/her first name. It does act in a positive manner.
Secondly, funds provided to embassies have been increased, embassies have given more powers. Earlier also powers were there but not delegated. Process too was not transparent. People did not have trust because communication was lacking. There were illegal agents promising citizens in India job abroad. Ministry took strict measures to end all the non-sense. Now, the Ambassadors at various places have started meeting Indian people in prisons in respective countries to know their problems and resolve those quickly. The Ministry also asks them to get the statistics of the people approaching them with the complaints, the form of complaints, rate of resolving those. Another important aspect is many people go to other countries for jobs.
There is a worker category too going abroad for whom the Ministry started conducting pre-departure training to make things easier. The Ministry asks our embassies in other countries to help Indians there. There is a big chunk of Indian population in Gulf countries. Earlier, the situation was very bad, Indians had to undergo lot of sufferings. Now, we have found ways because of which problems have been resolved. These changes have brought Indians abroad closer to their motherland.
Did you try to introduce new things in Indian Consulates wherever you worked?
Yes. I took many proactive steps where consulates started approaching people. In fact, in USA, I started ‘Consulate at your doorstep’ under which I along with our team members visited one State every month. We met Governor, Mayor, chief of top educational institutions. Because of such initiatives we came to know several issues.
For example, many people told me that getting Indian Visa was a difficult thing on the earth. Now, we introduced electronic Visa system and people in 165 countries are taking advantage of it. I always saw to it how the countries would develop good connection with India in terms of industry, education, health etc., because doing mundane work is not in my disposition.
What challenges did you face and how did you cope with those? There are so many challenges we have to face. Every country has its own language, culture. Learning new language in less time, adopting the culture of that country are the primary challenges. Our relationship with the countries wherever we work is to be taken into account and have to be cautious while dealing with the issues. When I was in Syria, I tried that Oil and Natural Gas Company (Videsh) must be benefited.
It was a hard task because of so many aspects of the rulers there. I considered it as a challenge and got the contract for ONGC. Maldives is an archipelago of islands. Archipelago means chain of atolls. The Maldives archipelago is made up of 26 natural atolls stretched over 90,000 square kilometer in the sea with only 300 sq mt land. Those who have water phobia can not live there. Fortunately, I did not have the one. Many people try to avoid going there. But I never said ‘no’ to any assignment.
You have worked in several countries, so which country you liked the most to work in?
It is a difficult question to answer. Every country has its own features. Syrians are affectionate. Japanese are more civilised. People in the USA can be called as full of talent but always in a rush.
What prompted you to work on easing the passport process? In 1985, I was in Japan where my parents came to meet me. They were the victims of lengthy process of procuring passports. It was then, I had decided to ease the passport process. When I returned to India, I requested the Ministry that I wanted to work with Passport Department. I suggested the Minister to have passport office in every district. Accordingly, I chalked out a plan and included chain of post offices from where passport issuing process can be started.
The process started in the year 2017 when there were 93 offices. Now, in 2019, the number have gone up to 505.
You had reportedly planned to enter politics? Why did you feel like joining politics after your innings in Ministry of External Affairs was over? I don’t call it politics. After my retirement, I have launched a movement of positively and trying to assist countrymen in cleaning the political system. We send 543 members to Parliament who are our representatives, means they are expected to represent the nation. Unfortunately, 34 per cent of them have criminal background. I want to work on improving quality of Members of Parliament. Rulers as well as Opposition leaders should be wise enough. Instead of cleaning Ganges there is a need to clean the leaders. I don’t want to live in a country which has ‘impure’ political leaders.