The French Consul General in Kolkata, Mr Damien Syed, on Monday said that the percentage of tourist and student visas for France have seen a healthy increase this year while the Consulate has several projects in its pipeline that are awaiting implementation.

Mr Syed, whose term as Consul General of France in Kolkata is coming to an end, told The Statesman: “When I arrived here three years ago, I wanted more Indian tourists to visit my country and hence worked towards it and eventually it has been a success. As per statistics, over the last three years, the tourist visa has seen a sharp spurt. Compared to 2015, this year, it showed a growth of 85 per cent. This was necessary to further strengthen the bilateral ties between both the countries. The growth was achieved with cooperation from travel agencies, Visa Facilitation Services (VFS) and simplification of processes.”

He added that a biometric machine that was installed to record finger prints of the first time applicants developed no glitch till now and made the application process much simpler.

Talking on student visas as several Indian students choose to pursue academic courses in France, Mr Syed pointed out: “The student visas have also seen a steady growth of about 20-25 per cent this year in comparison to last year. We are in touch with the universities and have recruited one officer here in Kolkata who has been given charge of meeting the students, interacting and advising them regarding the same. Universities in France are also offering scholarships for Indian students. The officer facilitates institutional partnerships and encourage memorandum of understanding between Indian and French universities.”

The Consul General pointed out that several new projects are to be taken up in Bengal among which one will be signing of a partnership between the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Kharagpur, and some French universities in respect to mechanical engineering. It is one big project we are working on at the moment, claimed Mr Syed.

Speaking on reviving the heritage French buildings in Chandernagore, Mr Syed said: “Looking at the appalling conditions of the heritage buildings in Chandernagore, we had launched a website listing all of such buildings to increase awareness on heritage. There are around 99 such heritage buildings. The Registry building which is considered an icon, has been now been identified as one which needs immediate repair works. We are working on renovating projects in collaboration with the state government.

“We are finalising a memorandum of understanding (MoU) that will be soon signed with the Bengal government and approved by the ministry of external affairs. This MoU will allow us to begin with the renovation works of the Registry building which will be then turned into a cafe. It will be a flagship project.”

“We recently met the Governor of Bengal for the renovation works of the Dupleix museum in Chandernagore that houses Institute of Chandernagore. On Friday, we had the meeting in Raj Bhavan and requested him that the matter is reviewed and the museum be renovated,” added the Consul General who further highlighted that several French companies in the recent Bengal global business summit have also expressed interest in investing in Bengal such as the French company, Dassault.