The Telegraph
Wednesday , January 22 , 2014
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Hello, Germany here! Is Hemant listening?

Ranchi, Jan. 21: Rainer Schmiedchen, German consul-general based in Calcutta, wants to meet chief minister Hemant Soren, but hasn’t been able to do so despite trying for two months.

Schmiedchen, who came to Ranchi yesterday, divulged today that he wanted to talk with Hemant and discuss how mineral rich Jharkhand and technologically rich Germany could mutually help each other.

The envoy confided to The Telegraph that he had been trying to get an appointment with Hemant since November 2013.

“I’m sure the Jharkhand chief minister isn’t aware I have been trying to get an audience with him. As I was to come to Ranchi in January, in pure German tradition, I began contacting the CM’s office in November 2013 itself. In a letter, I even indicated various dates in January, requesting the chief minister to give me a time slot according to his convenience. Unfortunately, I received no reply,” said the consul-general wryly.

Schmiedchen added he made phone calls too.

“On one occasion, someone who took my phone call, very politely told me he did not understand English. When I began to converse in Hindi, the phone was disconnected. At other times, persons who picked up the phone at the CM’s office said nothing and just disconnected the phone,” the envoy said.

It’s embarrassing for the state to know that the office of its chief minister goes mysteriously coy when a consul-general of another country calls up.

“Something seems to be wrong. I do not understand what went wrong every time I rang up the CM’s office,” the consul-general said.

Stressing his wish to explore trade ties with Jharkhand, the consul-general said Germany would be willing to grant five-year visas to Indian businessmen and entrepreneurs and students wishing to pursue higher studies there.

Schmiedchen and his wife reached the state capital yesterday afternoon from Bodh Gaya, Bihar. This morning, they met Cardinal Telesphore P. Toppo at Archbishop House and later visited Central University of Jharkhand at Brambe where he donated Rs 15 lakh for buying scientific instruments to help advanced research in nano-technology and solar power.

The consul general also met state chief secretary R.S. Sharma in the evening.

Schmiedchen said that in the light of the fatal attack on Australian missionary Graham Staines in Odisha in January 1999, he asked Cardinal Toppo about how safe the Christian community was in the state.

“I was told that the Christian community in Jharkhand was safe. I will relay this information to the German government. Reports of many incidents such as rapes are often exaggerated. I’d like to put right the rather incorrect picture of India that is being painted in Germany,” he added.

He added Germany would also lend a helping hand for setting up a medical college and hospital that was being actively pursued by the Cardinal.

The consul general revealed he would meet the Jharkhand human rights commissioner Narayan Roy tomorrow and discuss with him the safety of women in the state.

“Violence against women is a global phenomenon and not particularly endemic to India. But reports of rapes and assaults on girls and women from various parts of India are alarming,” he said.

When The Telegraph got in touch with Himanshu Shekhar, the political advisor to the chief minister, and told him about the consul-general’s experience, he was shocked.

“I am shocked something like this could have happened. Such an incident shows Jharkhand in a bad light. I will definitely take care to undo the damage done,” Shekhar promised.

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