June 21, 2013
Consul General Dnyaneshwar Mulay
Dnyaneshwar Mulay, India’s new Consul General in New York, blends the humility of a villager with the enthusiasm of a poet. Unlike many of his colleagues,
he is not condescending with those who
come to him.
2013 marks three decades of his membership of the elite Indian Foreign Service. He
says he has seen many worlds and encountered many cultures, he has learned many
languages and met with all sorts of people.
The journey from a remote village in
Maharashtra with little educational facili-
ties to the halls of power was not easy. He
credits hard work and India’s democracy
which provides opportunity to its citizens —
irrespective of place of birth, language,
affluence or poverty, caste or creed — for this.
Though a successful diplomat, he is venerated more for
his writings — in three languages: Marathi, Hindi and
Mulay has written over 15 books, poems, stories and trav-elogues that have been translated in Arabic, Dhivehi, Urdu,
Kannada and Hindi. His writing in his native Marathi have
won him a large following and brought him awards from
the Maharashtra Sahitya Akademi and the national Sahitya
Long before he wrote books like Mati Pankh Ani Akash
and Russia Navya Dishanche Amantran, Mulay was born
in a village in Kolhapur, where he became the first student
from rural Maharashtra to win the Jagannath Sunkersett
Award, named after the legendary 19th century Bombay
philanthropist, for securing the highest marks in Sanskrit
at the School Secondary Certificate examination in 1975.
The diplomat has never forgotten his origins and has
established several projects including Balodayan, an
orphanage in his native village, and the Dnyaneshwar
Mulay Education Society in Pune which works with young
Maharashtrians, imparting innovative concepts of global
As someone for whom academic achievement came easily — he topped the Shivaji University BA exam in English
literature, bagging the prestigious Dhananjay Keer Award;
later, he was a topper in Mumbai University’s post graduation personnel management course — Mulay established
an annual excellence award at Shivaji University in 2006
for the lady student securing the highest marks in social
He joined the Indian Foreign Service in 1983 after a brief
stint as a deputy collector in Pune, and has served in Japan,
Russia, Mauritius and Syria.
Before he arrived in New York, Mulay had a most eventful four-year (April 2009 to March 2013) tenure as India’s
high commissioner to the Maldives, through that nation’s
coup d’etat and aggressive internal strife.
Mulay’s wife Sadhana Shanker is an Indian Revenue
Service officer. The couple has three children, two boys and
a girl, who are studying in India.
‘We want to create a system which is transparent’
Dnyaneshwar Mulay, India’s new Consul General in New York, speaks to
What changes are you planning to make the Indian con-
George Joseph. Photographs: Paresh Gandhi
sulate more efficient?
The consulate handles a lot of things — visas, passports,
OCI cards and other things. In every sense of the term, the
New York consulate is doing very substantial work. Look at
the volume of work: We issue about 100,000 visas a year.
It is the second largest in terms of issuance of visas after
the mission in London.
There is tremendous pressure on the consulate. We have
a limited staff, yet everyone is conscious of their duties and
trying to fulfill the expectations of people.
Our approach is constructive. We keep improving things
and assess the situation constantly. We also take complaints seriously. We want to create a system for service
which is transparent. We want to make the system efficient
so that people do not come back with problems.
What are the major problems you see?
There are some problems after a new agency (BLS
International Services Limited) took over as the service
provider for Indian passports in early May. The changeover
from the earlier provider (VFS Global Ltd) has created
some problems. The new agency has to adjust with the situation. The agencies only collect the applications. The rest
of the work is done at the consulate as per the rules and
regulations. We see that most people — 99 percent or more
— are honest. But in some cases we have found misrepresentation. That means we have to be careful too.
Passport and visa services are provided by two companies:
BLS and Travisa. Does that not create problems?
It will soon be handled by BLS alone. Travisa will be
BLS had promised it would employ more Indians and also
reduce the rates for its services. We have not seen any reduc-
tion in rates. What about the employees?
I have no comments about this now. We have to monitor
things. I have asked for a meeting with all. We have to look
at the work as a whole — from submitting an application
and how much time it takes to provide the actual service.
My goal is simple — to expedite things and make it efficient. If a good system is established, then complaints too
will be few. Of course, we cannot avoid all complaints.
What kind of relation do you want to develop with the
I want to work out a partnership with the community, a
collaboration between the community and the consulate.
The changes in the rules for the OCI card have created
much heartache in the community. Though many of us are
US citizens, we still consider ourselves as Indians. What are
your plans to solve this issue?
I have seen more desire among the people to get connected with India.
They are very conscious about it and take it very seriously. I see an extremely friendly people who want to continue
the relation with India. Out of 100,000 applicants, if half a