Indian diplomats abroad under scanner for assault, corruption, harassment

Left: Devyani Khobragade Right: Ravi Thappar
Left: Devyani Khobragade
Right: Ravi Thapar

Indian diplomats posted abroad are facing the heat of complaints pouring in against them for charges such as corruption, domestic violence, harassment and dereliction of duty. The concern was raised in regard to the Indian envoy to New Zealand being recalled, following an accusation that his wife assaulted a domestic staff. He adds to a total of 27 diplomats abroad face for unsolicited behaviour.

The latest number excludes Ravi Thapar, the envoy to New Zealand, who was called back after his wife allegedly assaulted a member of their domestic staff. Of the 27 facing investigation, five are in Indian missions in the UK, five in Madagascar, three each in Kazakhstan and Kenya, two each in Botswana and Mali, and one each in Afghanistan, Austria, Italy, Japan, Morocco, the Netherlands and Thailand. Sources said that this is a “worrying trend”  that has led to concerns at the top levels of the government, especially because the number of diplomats facing such charges for 2014-15, is almost thrice that of 2013-14 (10), and over four times more than in 2012-13 (6).

More than 40 complaints have been filed against Indian embassies over the last three years, 27 among them being filed last year alone. However, officials in the External Affairs ministry say that not all complaints are against Indian diplomats. Many, they say, are also against locally-hired staff and relate to issues of dereliction of duty and performance.

VK Singh, minister of state for external affairs,as a reply to a question on the rising number of complaints against Indian embassies, said in Parliament, on 7 May,  that the largest number of complaints, eight, have been against the UK mission, five in 2014, one in 2013 and two in 2012 and one in Madagascar. The mission in Kenya has seen seven complaints over the last three years, he added.

It was during last month that a member of service staff of Indian High commission in New Zealand, complained he was kept in slavery and assaulted by Sharmila Thapar, wife of Indian High Commissioner Ravi Thapar.

According to the MEA spokesperson Vikas Swarup, the issue was first brought into the ministry’s attention when the service staff member was found missing and later found distressed around 20 km away from the High Commissioner’s residence, a distance he walked overnight.

However, Ravi Thapar denied the charge saying that he returned to India to stay with his mother. Further denying the allegations, Thapar said that, his wife was an ‘experienced diplomatic spouse incapable of assaulting an able bodied man’. “The guy had absolute freedom to walk away and to do whatever…we trusted him,”  he added. The complainant, believed to be a chef, was later taken to the police station and later to the Wellington night shelter.

“Ever since the new NDA government has come to power, the probity of officials is being given high priority. Complaints against officials and diplomats, who are posted overseas, are taken very seriously by the MEA. The high number could be a reflection of the better responsiveness as compared to previous years,” a government official told here.  Unlike earlier, the ministry now reportedly investigates anonymous complaints against the officials as well. In such cases, the charges that are found to have some merit in the primary probe are taken ahead.

“Earlier, complaints against Indian embassy officials would go unheeded. But now, senior officials of the government and even the foreign minister and the Prime Minister can be reached by the Indian community overseas through social media. And they pro-actively respond. This means that complaints cannot be brushed under the carpet anymore,” said another official.   


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