Bengaluru, Jan 8 (IANS)Lauding the deep and emotional attachment Persons of Indian Origin in Girmitiya countries have for their motherland, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday told PIOs to obtain Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) cards by June 30.
"We have extended the deadline to convert PIO cards into OCI cards to June 30 from December 31, without penalty," Modi told the Indian diaspora at the 14th Pravasi Bharatiya Divas celebrations here.
"We have also set up special immigration counters at New Delhi and Bengaluru airports since January 1 for OCI card holders. Similar counters will be opened at more airports in the country," said Modi in his inaugural address at the event.
Girmityas are the fourth or fifth generation of descendents of indentured Indian labourers who during the 19th century went to Fiji, Mauritius, South Africa and the Caribbean islands to work on agricultural fields and settled down in these countries.
Acknowledging the difficulties faced by the PIOs in getting the OCI cards, the Prime Minister said his government was working on new procedures to facilitate the descendants of Girmitiyas in Mauritius become eligible for OCI cards.
"We are committed to addressing similar difficulties of PIOs in Fiji, Reunion Islands, Suriname, Guyana and other Caribbean states," said Modi on the occasion.
Noting that about three crore people of Indian origin were living across the world, Modi said they were not only respected for their numbers, but also for the contributions they have made to societies they live in.
"The NRIs and PIOs have made outstanding contributions in their chosen fields. They are role models for immigrants from other backgrounds and countries. They take with them our values and culture wherever they go," Modi said.
Observing that it was special for him to connect with the diaspora, which made India proud on the world stage, the Prime Minister said the government was doing everything possible to deepen the outreach with NRIs and PIOs.
"Overseas Indians have also made invaluable contribution to the Indian economy, including 69-billion dollar-worth remittances in 2016. We are strengthening processes at our embassies and consulates to facilitate their easier travel to India," said Modi.
Asserting that the diaspora represented the best of Indian culture, ethos and values, Modi said the welfare, security and safety of all Indians abroad was his government's top priority.
"Efforts are also being made to provide maximum facilitation and ensure least inconvenience to even Indian citizens seeking economic opportunities abroad," added Modi.
Diaspora seeks more time to exchange old notes
By Fakir Balaji
Bengaluru, Jan 9 (IANS) The Diaspora comprising Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) and Persons of Indian Origin (PIOs) has sought extension of the deadline to exchange or deposit the banned notes till December 31.
"The deadline should be extended by six months till December 31 as all those having the banned notes will not come to India just to exchange or deposit them by June," Thomas Abraham, a NRI from Dubai, told IANS here.
The government had on December 31 extended the deadline to June 30 for the diaspora to deposit or exchange the specified bank notes (old Rs 500 and Rs 1,000) after the November 8 demonetisation.
Resident Indians travelling or living abroad temporarily have been given three months (up to March 31) to declare the banned notes they are carrying at airports on arrival before submitting them in designated Reserve Bank of India (RBI) offices across the country.
"Though many of us may not hold huge amounts of the banned notes as we transact in local currency and the Indian rupee is not fully convertible, we should be given enough time to exchange them since most of us come to India once or twice in a year," Abraham said on the margins of the 14th Pravasi Bharatiya Divas.
Another NRI from Oman said the government should allow the diaspora to deposit the banned notes at Indian embassies or high commissions and credit them in their bank accounts in case the deadline is not extendable after June 30.
"The RBI or overseas branches of state-run banks like SBI (State Bank of India) should be advised to open counters at our embassies in all countries for depositing the banned notes whatever be their number as they are our hard-earned cash," said Gopalankutty Karnavar, a Muscat-based NRI from Kerala.
Several overseas Indian delegates attending the three-day biennial jamboree said they normally keep or carry Rs 25,000-50,000 in cash when coming to India for contingencies despite having bank accounts and using debit/credit for payments or transactions.
"We bring a few thousands of rupees with us whenever we fly to India for initial expenses at airports or food, local travel and purchases before converting dollars or other currencies," said Kanavar, a blue collar worker from Alappuzha in Kerala who heads the Malayli wing of the Indian social club in the Gulf country.
The Global Organisation of People of Indian Origin also urged the government to extend the deadline to December 30, 2017, for exchanging or depositing the high denomination notes in RBI or SBI.
Terming the note ban a welcome move, a majority of the diaspora said its implementation was, however, poor as their kith and kin were at the receiving end of the cash-crunch and the economic disruption.
"If the high value notes were banned to fight black money, terror funding, fake currency and corruption, the move is laudable though it exposes the government's failure to curb the menace through its enforcing agencies," a US-based NRI told IANS on the condition of anonymity.
Although Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday thanked the diaspora for supporting the note ban, many NRIs and IPOs said unlike their resident Indians they were not impacted by it as they don't transact in rupee, which is not fully convertible.
"The sudden ban has taken us by surprise though not affected by it as the rupee is not used in our country and the value of our remittances is intact in our bank accounts," said James Mathew, an accountant in a private firm at Manama in Bahrain.