The entire nation and the Indian diaspora was in total shock when the viral video of an Indian consulate official in New York went viral. The officer was seen misbehaving with an Indian woman, applying for an urgent visa to visit India for the cremation of her father.

The widely-criticized video showed the concerned officer shouting at the applicant, threatening to blacklist her husband so they could never get an Indian visa. Surely, this didn't go down well with the masses.

The Indian couple, Tina Banerjee and Romie DiCosta shared the video of the incident, which went viral after people tagged the concerned accounts on social media. Just when all hope was lost, the couple managed to get in touch with NY-based social activist Prem Bhandari, who has been helping Indians living abroad on issues related to visas and passports for several years, and suddenly tables turned.

Social activist turns angel to Indian couple; helps get visa amid NY embassy fiasco [details]

What led to the NY consulate fiasco?

It all started when Tina and her husband went to the Indian consulate in NY on November 22, seeking an emergency visa to visit India as her father had just passed away. The couple had enquired about the documents, referred to them via a website, over the phone by the helpline before coming in later that evening.

Since they arrived slightly later than the appointment time, they were asked to return the next morning. When they came back with the visa application, the couple was told they had the wrong form.

Desperate to get the visa, the couple filled out another form and submitted the same along with the visa fees and were then asked to return at 4 p.m, shortly before their flight the same day at 6:30 p.m.

Due to some mistakes in the application, the embassy official lost his cool and returned the application. It was then the woman decided to get the official's behavior on camera, which was later shared on social media and went viral in no time. Still, they had no visa at hand. Making matters worse, the police was called in to get the couple thrown out of the embassy.

Social activist turns angel to Indian couple; helps get visa amid NY embassy fiasco [details]

Prem Bhandari turns angel for Indian couple

When Tina's hopes of returning to India in time for her father's cremation were fading, help was right around the corner. The couple had learned about how US-based social activist Prem Bhandari, chairman of Jaipur Foot USA, helped an Indian-American family return to India after being blacklisted for over 3 years by the Chicago Consulate.

That family's mistake was calling the cops on the consulate officers for being made run pillar to post for a visa for nearly 3-months. No amount of pleading and apologies went their way.

Three and a half years later, Bhandari was notified of the situation, who rang up the then Indian Ambassador in US Harsh Vardhan Shringla (now Foreign Secretary) to intervene. Soon after, the Chicago Consulate sent a request to the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs to remove the family from the blacklist, which was personally followed up by Bhandari.

The visa was finally issued for the distressed family after a 3.5-year struggle to meet their 91-year-old bed-ridden blind mother.

Speaking to IBTimes, Tina and Romie said that this inspired them to contact Bhandari, who was in India at the time. "He quickly spoke to the officials attached to the consulate and got higher-ranking officials to intervene. This settled the dispute and the Indian visas were finally issued to us and we could get home for the funeral."

Tina and Romie
Tina and Romievia Twitter

"I felt Bhandari Ji was sent by my dad's departed soul to help me when no one else could. He was a blessing throughout this issue," Tina was quoted saying.

"Whatever the reason is, the manner in which the visa officer at Indian Consulate in New York is seen behaving in the video is unfortunate. It is important that the Indian government should take steps to ensure that this is not repeated at any of our diplomatic missions. They are public servants, and this video certainly does not reflect that," Bhandari said.

Bhandari said that the behavior of the concerned official maligned all the hard work carried out by the Indian embassies during the COVID-19 pandemic through the Vande Bharat mission.

"No doubt, under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, things have improved tremendously over the past seven years. We have a long way to go on how our own people are being treated at Indian diplomatic missions. I receive a number of complaints like this on a daily basis. New York Consulate is not an exception to this," he said.

The Indian Consulate in New York has initiated a disciplinary proceeding against the officer. Bhandari also suggested that a global toll-free number be established, where the Indian diaspora can call and get help without fear.

"Barring these aberrations, we must not lose sight of the amazing work done by our diplomats. We must also keep in mind that we don't let such isolated incidents malign the hard work of the foreign ministry of India and its embassies. I am happy that corrective action was taken in this case on time. Which again proves our point that Indian missions abroad after PM Modi took over the nation's reigns, have changed for good and are supremely people friendly and solution-oriented," Bhandari added.