By Atul Bhardwaj, Second Secretary (Consular & Press, Information & Culture) Embassy of India, Bucharest
I would like to draw your attention to the News article/write up “Repatriation Diplomacy” by Shahidul KK Shuvra published on 12 January 2023 in Nine O’Clock.
It is regretted that a newspaper of such a high repute like Nine O’Clock did not make any efforts to corroborate the facts with Embassy of India before publishing this article. I am giving below some broad figures to portray the correct picture on the matter since given the number of consular assistance that the Embassy provides on a daily basis to Indian citizens, it wouldn’t be possible to enumerate every case.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, our Embassy provided assistance to nearly 250 Indian citizens with food and shelter for several weeks before their air passage to India was arranged. Many of these Indian nationals had lost their jobs because of the pandemic and did not have any money to feed themselves or travel back to India. Special flights were arranged by Government of India to ensure that each one of them reaches home safely. All expenditure, including of the air travel, was borne by the Government of India.
Nearly 8000 Indian citizens were evacuated to India through Romania who were stuck in Ukraine in February/ March 2022. These Indian nationals were provided road transport and thereafter were evacuated by 36 special direct flights arranged by the Government of India for their safe travel back to India. The Embassy ensured that each one of them was provided accommodation and meals till their departure to India. Unlike several other Embassies which requested financial and transport assistance from Government of Romania, our Embassy did not seek any such assistance. Again, all expenditure was borne by the Government of India.
I am not listing out the quantum of expenditure incurred in exercises such as above since it can be easily calculated.
I would also like to mention that just in the last few years, in cases of unfortunate death of Indian workers in Romania, 18 mortal remains have been repatriated to India. The Embassy facilitated funds for repatriation of mortal remains although the employer should have taken the responsibility. Again, just so that you have an idea of the kind of expenditure involved, the cost repatriation of mortal remains from Romania to India is in the range of Euro 5000. The complete process takes over a month in each case and the Embassy is involved in every step of the process.
The Embassy attends to each and every grievance received from an Indian national received either through mail/phone or in person. The Embassy’s website prominently displays an Emergency Number (available 24/7) for assistance of Indian nationals in Romania. The author of the article could have easily checked this and confirmed by making a call in this Emergency Number even at midnight. The Consular Wing has never refused consular assistance to any Indian in distress. Even the Ambassador has an Open House every week where any Indian can come to him without appointment if his issues remain unaddressed. Besides these consular facilities available in the Embassy, the Ministry of External Affairs of India has an elaborate mechanism for grievance redressal, which are monitored even at the level of Minister of External Affairs of India and the Prime Minister’s Office.
In the case of the Indian workers shown in the photo of the article, please let us know when they approached the Embassy and who refused them assistance. It is easy to make sweeping statements not backed by facts. Romania has thousands of Indian workers. If the Embassy were lax in providing assistance to these workers, cases such as mentioned in the article would have occurred on a regular basis.
If your newspaper believes in ethical journalism and not sensational news, I expect your newspaper to publish a corrigendum with the information mentioned above.