NDA government worried about number of Indian diplomats facing investigation

Mr and Mrs Thapar: Accused of 'slavery'.
Mr and Mrs Thapar

28 June 2015 9:40 PM AEST:Just a day after the Indian High Commissioner to New Zealand was recalled following allegations of ‘slavery’ against his ‘experienced diplomatic spouse’, a report published today revealed that the sheer number of Indian envoys embroiled abroad is a ‘worrying trend’ for New Delhi.

As many as 27 Indian diplomats who were posted abroad are currently being investigated by the NDA government, The Indian Express reported today.

The figure of 27, however, does not include the curious case of now controversial envoy to New Zealand, Ravi Thapar.

The charges against these diplomats are related to ‘corruption, harassment and dereliction of duty’. Citing its source within the South Block, Express said the trend has been a matter of concern for the government at the highest levels.

In addition to the 27 cases in 2014-15, there were apparently 10 in 2013-14 and 6 in 2012-13 indicating more than four-fold increase in the number of charges against Indian diplomats since 2012-13.

“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,” the report said.

It further indicated that the steep rise in the number of Indian diplomats facing internal investigations is a result of the current NDA government’s determination to minutely probe complaints made against government officials. Social media has further enabled the members of the Indian diaspora to directly connect with the relevant authorities, even with the Prime Minister himself or the Minister for External Affairs herself.

The foreign affairs ministry takes even anonymous complaints very seriously, the report said. But serious investigations take place only when preliminary investigations determine the seriousness of the complaints.

As for Mr Thapar’s case, his troubles began on May 9 when his domestic staff (believed to be a chef) walked some 20 kilometres from his residence in Lower Hutt to Wellington where a concerned member of the public took the ‘distressed’ man to the police. There, through an interpreter, he levelled allegations of ‘slavery’ adding his wife, Sharmila Thapar, physically assaulted him. He also accused Mr Thapar himself of ‘threatening with assault’, local media in New Zealand reported. However, the man refused to lodge a formal complaint.

According to The New Zealand Herald, the distressed staff of the High Commission was eventually taken to the Wellington Night Shelter where he spent few nights.

Police in Wellington sought the assistance of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade that in turn informed the Indian Foreign Ministry. An Indian official arrived in the country to facilitate the return of the domestic staff as well as to investigate the matter further, the Weekend Herald said.

It is understood the New Zealand police have since gone the extra mile of double-checking the welfare of the domestic help even after he returned to India. “The police said that a check on the man’s welfare in India confirmed that he was fine and happy to be home,” The New Zealand Herald said.

Media reports dating back to May suggest Mr Thapar did not agree to talk to the local police when approached, neither did he allow any of his staffs to be interviewed by the police.

The diplomat on his part told the media yesterday that he was returning to India to take care of his mother.  “I’m going but to take care of my mum because my dad passed away last year. I can’t keep up 13,000km away just talking to her on the phone,” he was quoted.

The spokesperson for the Ministry of External Affairs, Vikas Swarup, told media yesterday that although the staff member did not press any charges against Mrs Thapar, the government shall probe into the matter.

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