This French consulate wears several hats

Foreigners riding a motorbike, without wearing a helmet, on a road inPuducherry. Photo: S. S. Kumar

Foreigners riding a motorbike, without wearing a helmet, on a road inPuducherry. Photo: S. S. Kumar   | Photo Credit: S_S_KUMAR


It is dubbed as ‘City Municipality and Chief Secretariat rolled into one’

When French Consul General Janvier-Kamiyama is not doing his bit to build bilateral ties, he has to solemnise marriages between French boys and Tamil girls, arrange the safe return of tourists who get injured during their vacation, and, sometimes even intervene to settle land disputes involving the Franco-Tamil residents.

Being a French Consul General in a former outpost, whose history, heritage and culture are intertwined with those of France, is quite unlike an assignment at any other French diplomatic missions in India.

Mr. Janvier-Kamiyama recounts a recent incident where a French medicine student got accidental burns while in Kerala and had to be taken to Bangalore where she had to wait for almost eight hours to get an onward flight to Paris.

Then, there are many instances of vacations cut short when tourists who take bikes on rent and zip around the narrow roads of the city have bad falls. In such cases, the Consulate takes great pains to arrange safe transportation back home of such tourists, some of whom come alone and often are short of cash.

“While on this topic, I wish tourists hiring motorbikes and scooters off the street side rentals would wear helmets,” said Mr. Janvier-Kamiyama whose job requires him to wear many bowler hats. However, he makes it clear that when the Consular office intervenes in, say, a land dispute case involving the French, the ground rule is that the law of the land is supreme.

“What we offer at best is a helping hand or a conciliatory approach of resolution,” said the Consul General.

This French Consulate building, surrounded by landmarks on the Promenade, is also the first port of call for an estimated 5,500 French citizens, including the Franco-Tamil population, settled in the city and its enclaves in Karaikal, Yanam and Mahe. Much like the Alliance Francaise nearby which turns into an enquiry cell for international tourists than a language and cultural centre, the Consulate too often gets dragged into roles it was not designed for, but, nonetheless, obliges most of the requests for help.

It is no exaggeration that the Consulate office has been dubbed as the ‘City Municipality and Chief Secretariat rolled into one’.

At the Visa Facilitation Service in this Consulate, whose jurisdiction extends to Tamil Nadu and State of Kerala, the demand for visas is going up.

As against the 8,000 visas cleared last year, there is an 18 per cent jump in the numbers in the corresponding period this year, Mr. Janvier-Kamiyama said.

The bulk of the demand is from Tamil Nadu and Kerala. Visa demand is mainly from tourist, business and student categories.

“We do anticipate an increase in demand for student visas going ahead,” said the Consul General.

This expectation stems from the slew of recent higher education tie-ups between institutions such as the IIT-Madras and Anna University and French Universities.

In January, Tamil Nadu became the first Indian State to send a batch of students under a bilateral higher education pact.

Mr. Janvier-Kamiyama wants to help launch a bottoms-up clean-Puducherry campaign. “Given its small size, the city is ideal to drive change,” he said.

“If the Government comes up with specific sustainable projects, France is happy to provide finance,” said Mr. Janvier-Kamiyama, pointing to the ongoing France-supported Kochi Metro Rail Project.

He also wants to attract more French business courtesy of regular meetings of the Indo-French Chamber of Commerce and bring larger number of international tourists to the city.

The lack of flight connectivity remains a major lacuna in realising these big plans.

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Printable version | Jan 28, 2020 9:42:33 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/puducherry/this-french-consulate-wears-several-hats/article6228018.ece

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