In the third part of the achievements of Narendra Modi government, we take a look at how Sushma Swaraj has transformed the Ministry of External Affairs into a people-friendly ministry. Earlier, we studied achievements of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and Home Minister Rajnath Singh.
Sushma Swaraj’s father was a prominent RSS member and she started her political career in 70s with ABVP, the student wing of RSS. She was first elected as one of the youngest MLA in Haryana, in 1977, at the age of 25. She was also a part of the cabinet of Haryana, the youngest to hold the post of the Cabinet Minister in any state. She was elected as state president of Janata Party, Haryana in 1977 at the age of 27. Later she went on the serve BJP at the national level in different positions. She was also a Minister for Information and Broadcasting in central government during Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s tenure as PM. Her most notable contribution during this term was, to declare film production as an industry making it eligible to get bank finances. She resigned from Union Cabinet to assume charge of Chief Minister of Delhi in 1998, however, this tenure was short-lived and BJP was defeated in subsequent Delhi Assembly elections and she returned to national politics and continued to hold different ministries in Central Government till May 2004. She was also Minister of Health from January 2003 to May 2004 during which central government gave nod to six AIIMS at Bhopal, Bhubaneswar, Jodhpur, Patna, Raipur and Rishikesh. After 2009 Loksabha elections, she was appointed as Leader of Opposition in Loksabha, a post which she continued to hold till May 2014, when she was appointed as Minister of External Affairs in Narendra Modi Cabinet.
India’s foreign policy has historically been always driven by the Prime Minister, with Minister of External Affairs playing supporting role to the Prime Minister. Narendra Modi government continued this trend with Sushma Swaraj ably supporting the Prime Minister. Under Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Sushma Swaraj, India secured also secured its strategic interests by operationalizing Chabahar port in Iran, naval base in Seychelles, Mauritius, berthing rights at Vietnam, naval access to Changi port in Singapore, boosting India’s strategic manoeuvring and also countering China’s growing influence in Indian Ocean region.
However, what was not so people-oriented ministry before, has got a complete facelift under Sushma Swaraj, which has become one of the most people friendly ministry in the last five years. We take a look at the transformation of the Ministry of External Affairs under Sushma Swaraj.
Improved Communication with the intelligent use of Social Media – Sushma Swaraj improved communication of this ministry, and brought this ministry closer to the common man like never before. Sushma Swaraj was the first minister of the Modi government to make effective use of social media platforms, particularly Twitter, to help Indian people stranded in foreign countries. She has helped countless Indians, who lost their passports, or were stranded in other countries due to other reasons. Earlier this would be a nightmare situation for the people. Now people know that their one tweet would do the job. Her witty replies on Twitter bring smiles on the face of people.
MEA launched Madad portal for Indians in need in foreign countries – Through this portal, Indians visiting or staying abroad can get access to consular service at the click of a mouse, through respective Indian High Commissions/Embassies. This service is particularly beneficial for students, migrant workers, and tourists who face some problems in other countries, and feel helpless. They can now reach Indian Embassies and High Commissions online if they face any kind of problems in foreign countries.
Improvement in passport services and simplification of rules – Getting a passport was a nightmare earlier, with so many complex rules. Though the improvement in passport services started under previous government with partial privatization of services through Tata Consultancy Services, the situation has only improved further. Now you can get a passport through regular process in as less as 3 days, if all your required documents are in place.
This government has also opened up Passport Seva Kendra (PSK) offices in major post offices across the nation, eliminating the need to travel for passport offices located in major cities and often having jurisdiction of 6 -10 districts under them. With Post office PSKs, the government aims to bring passport services to people at their doorsteps within 50 kilometers of their residence.
Rescue operations in war torn countries – MEA carried out rescue operations for stranded Indians, in the war torn countries like Yemen, Libya, Iraq etc. with Minister of State Gen. VK Singh, personally flying to these countries to coordinate the operations, and give a message to the Indians that they aren’t alone, and the government is firmly behind them. These rescue operations were not only limited to Indians, but also to the foreign nationals of even countries like the USA and Germany at their request.
From Libya, more than 5,000 people were rescued while from Yemen, Indian government rescued 4,748 Indians, and 1,962 foreigners. The government also rescued 46 Indian nurses (mostly Christians from Kerala) in Iraq along with 7,000 others and Father Alex Prem Kumar in Afghanistan from the captivity of militants. Who says this government is anti-minority?
E- Visas – India changed its policy with regards to visas and started issuing E- Visa’s to tourists to visit India. This has resulted in a historic rise in tourist arrivals to India and thereby strengthening the tourism business and increased forex earnings. As per the latest reports, now E-visa has been practically extended to all countries in the world, which started from 43 countries in November 2014 . Apart from tourists, E-visas have also been extended to four other categories – Medical, Business, Conference and Medical Attendant, thereby also helping medical tourism and MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conference and Events) business for hotels. Recently MEA further liberlised the E-Visa regime, making it more tourist friendly.
The author is journalism pass out from Indian Institute of Mass Communication, New Delhi. After dangerously flirting with the idea of left during his IIMC days, due to the proximity of the IIMC with JNU, a den of radical leftists, he became firmly aligned to right after realizing the futility of the left. He tweets at @kpophale.