To an estimated 30 million people who constitute the Indian Diaspora across the Continents, the speech by India’s Prime Minister at the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas 2017 in Bengaluru (formerly Bangalore) on January 8, 2017, would have been musical. Far from being rhetoric and lips-serving, he announced a series of measures that would make India a better destination to do business, invest or simply take a holiday.
“For my government and for me personally, engagement with the overseas Indian community has been a key area of priority. As a result of our sustained and systematic outreach, there is new energy, keen desire and strong drive among the Indian Diaspora to connect more extensively and deeply with India’s social and economic transformation,” he said.
While initiatives such as ‘Make In India’ ‘Progress Summit’ and a plethora of conferences and seminars have promoted India as a great country for engagement, the Indian government’s efforts to offer ‘equal status and equal opportunity’ for former Indian nationals and for people of Indian origin (who were not born in India or visited that country so far) would go far in the process of endearment and closer linkage.
As well as protecting migrant workers and Indian nationals in general working and living overseas, Mr Modi and his government are encouraging people of Indian origin – those who have never had Indian passports at any time in their lives – to obtain ‘Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI)’ Card and those holding Person of Indian Origin (PIO) Card to convert it to OCI by March 31, 2017.
OCI is not dual citizenship (India does not provide this facility), it accords a number of privileges and benefits akin to that of a Non-Resident India.
Mr Modi said that India has a special bond with the Indian Diaspora in the Girmitya countries.
Many of them are deeply and emotionally attached with their place of origin.
“We are aware of difficulties faced by PIO from these countries in obtaining an OCI Card if they moved abroad four or five generations ago. We acknowledge their concerns and have made efforts to address these issues,” he said.
The Indian government is equally concerned over the misuse and ill-treatment of workers going overseas on work permits. They are often overworked, underpaid and live and work in abominable conditions.
India’s skilled labour is in great demand all over the world and Mr Modi would do well to utilise his growing popularity on the global platform to seek better living and working conditions for his compatriots.
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