Pravasi Bharatiya Divas And Overseas Citizens of India

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Context: The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has stated that more than 34 lakh Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) registrations had been done but declined to divulge information relating to the number of persons whose OCI cards had been cancelled, citing non-availability in a “consolidated form.

Relevance:
Prelims: Current events of national and international importance.
Mains: GS II-

  • Indian Constitution- historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions, and basic structure.
  • Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India's interests, Indian diaspora

 

What is Pravasi Bhartiya Divas?
  • Pravasi Bharatiya Divas is celebrated in India on 9 January every other year (every year before 2016) to mark the contribution of the overseas Indian community to the development of India.
  • It commemorates the day Mahatma Gandhi returned from South Africa in 1915.
  • It is sponsored by the Ministry of External Affairs 

When did it start?

  • In 2002, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee decided to celebrate it annually by holding events including bestowing awards on prominent members of the Indian diaspora.

What is Diaspora?

  • Diaspora is a word that brackets people of Indian origin who have emigrated since the 19th century to all corners of the world.

Why 9th January?

  • 9th January was chosen as the day to celebrate this occasion since it was on this day in 1915 that Mahatma Gandhi returned to India from South Africa and eventually led India’s freedom struggle.

Objectives

  • PBD is celebrated to strengthen the engagement of the overseas Indian community with the Government of India and reconnect them with their roots.
  • During the Convention, selected overseas Indians are also honored with the prestigious Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Award to recognize their contributions to various fields both in India and abroad.

Significance:

  • PBD conventions are being held every year since 2003. These conventions provide a platform for the overseas Indian community to engage with the government and people of the land of their ancestors for mutually beneficial activities.
  • These conventions are also very useful in networking among the overseas Indian community residing in various parts of the world and enable them to share their experiences in various fields.
  • According to the Indian Government NRI has global exposure in terms of business and development strategies around the world.
    • If some opportunity is provided to them they will contribute to the developmental process by infusing their ideas and experiences on their motherland i.e. India.
  • Do you know that the first Pravasi Bharatiya Divas or Non-Resident Indian Day was celebrated on 9 January 2003 and was observed annually till 2015,
    • In 2016, the Ministry of External Affairs decided to make the event biennial and since then it is celebrated every second year. In 2019, Pravasi Bhartiya Divas was held on 21-23 January in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh.

Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Award (PBSA):

  • Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Award (PBSA) is the highest honor conferred on overseas Indians.
  • This award is conferred by the President of India as a part of the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD) Conventions which was organised since 2003.
  • Note:
    • Person of Indian Origin or an organisation or institution established and run by the Non-Resident Indians or Persons of Indian Origin, who has made significant contributions.

Latest Pravasi Bharatiya Divas or NRI Day January 2019:

  • The theme of the PBD Convention 2019 was “Role of Indian Diaspora in building a New India”.
  • Pravasi Bharatiya Divas or NRI Day January 2019: Chief Guest
  • The Chief Guest of the Convention was Mr. Pravind Kumar Jugnauth, Prime Minister of Mauritius. Also, Mr. Himanshu Gulati, Member of Parliament of Norway, was the Special Guest and Mr. Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi, Member of Parliament of New Zealand was the Guest of Honour at the Youth Pravasi Bharatiya Divas on 21st January 2019.

Some interesting facts about PBD or NRI Day:

  • Most of the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas Convention held at New Delhi that is in the years 2003, 2004, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011 and 2014.
  • Regional Pravasi Bharatiya Divas is organized outside India.
  • To give chance to link up those Indian Diaspora who cannot travel to India for the main event. It has been organised in 8 different cities.
  • The 2015 year marked 100 years or a century of the return of Mahatma Gandhi. So, the 2015 celebration of PBD was a symbolic one.
  • No doubt PBD plays a huge role in the development of India. Because Diaspora Indians will share their knowledge and experiences that they have gained from other countries.
  • Usually, the Chief Host of the PBD is a Foreigner.
  • With a specific theme, PBD is celebrated by the Union Government.
  • As we have discussed above also that now PBD is not an annual event since 2015.
  • At the convention of PBD, awards are given to the deserving Indians.
  • PBD's main aim is to connect the Indian Diaspora.
  • PBD is celebrated as the commemoration of the return of the Mahatma Gandhi.

Conclusion:

Therefore, we can say that Pravasi Bharatiya Divas or NRI Day is celebrated to link up the Indian Diaspora to commemorate the achievements of the individuals of Indian origin in their respective fields and also persuade them to bring their knowledge and expertise to their motherland.

 

Who are NRIs, PIO and OCI?
  • Before understanding anything it is vital to know the full form of the acronyms NRI, PIO & OCI stands for:-
    • NRI means Non-Resident Indian,
    • PIO stands for Person of Indian Origin and
    • OCI means Overseas Citizen of India.
  • NRI :
    • It is a residential status given to a citizen of India with an Indian Passport who resides in a foreign country for the purpose of work/business, or education.
  • PIO :
    • It is an identification status given to whom or whose any of the ancestors was a permanent Indian resident/citizen and who is currently holding valid citizenship and passport of another country.
  • OCI:
    • It is an immigration status given to a foreign citizen of Indian origin as an alternative for dual-citizenship which is not allowed by the Indian Constitution.
  • There are over 30 million overseas Indians living abroad and the remittance of close to 69 billion dollars annually by overseas Indians.
  • They can be categorised in three broad categories – NRIs, PIOs and OCIs. A Non-Resident Indian (NRI) is a citizen of India who has temporarily emigrated to another country for six months.
  • PIOs and OCI cardholders are not citizens but people who want to stay connected and involved with India more closely.
  • The PIO card was first implemented in 2002 as a benefit to foreign nationals who could establish at least a third-generation tie to Indian origin.
  • The OCI card was implemented in 2005, carried more benefits than the PIO card, and is valid for the holder’s lifetime.
  • In 2015, the PIO scheme was withdrawn by the Government of India and was merged with the OCI.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently urged the diaspora community to switch from their Person of Indian Origin (PIO) cards to Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) cards and had extended the deadline for applying for the conversion.

 NRI – Non-Resident Indian:

  • Eligibility for NRI:
    • The eligibility criteria for NRI status is that the person should be an Indian citizen with a valid Indian Passport and should reside outside of India for at least 183 days or more in a financial year (April 1st – March 31st).
  • Benefits of being an NRI:
    • Being an NRI is only a residential status classified by the Income-Tax of India. If you are an NRI, you can avail the following benefits from India,
      • i. Banks offer special overseas accounts like RFC/FCNR/NRE/NRO accounts.
      • ii. The education system in India allows special reservation quota for NRIs.
      • iii. You can vote for elections but you have to be physically present in the polling booth.
      • iv. Your income earned abroad will not be taxed by the Income-Tax Dept of India.
  • Limitations of being an NRI:
    • The limitations of being an NRI are as follows,
      • i. You cannot purchase agricultural land.
      • ii. You are taxed for the income you earn in India.

PIO – Person of Indian Origin:

As noted already, the Gazette of India published on 09.01.2015, says that all existing PIO cardholders are deemed to be OCI cardholders. The government of India has stopped issuing the handwritten PIO cards and asked the existing holders of PIO cards to replace them with the new OCI card.

  • Eligibility for PIO card:
    • The eligibility criteria that HAD been set to apply for a PIO card is that you should be,
    • A person, who or whose parents, grandparents, great grandparents were born in India and were/are a citizen or eligible to become citizen of India at any time on or after commencement of the Constitution i.e. 26.01.1950; or belong to territories that became part of India after 15.08.1947, is eligible for holding a PIO card.
    • But, you cannot be eligible for something that is no more available. Since the Ministry of Home Affairs has stopped issuing new PIO cards from 2015 you do not have to worry about the eligibility criteria to apply for a PIO card. In that case, you only have to know about the eligibility criteria to apply for an OCI card.
    • The Ministry of Home Affairs has removed the eligibility criteria for PIO and added the validity/expiry of PIO cards. So, if you already have an old PIO or want a new PIO card then your concerned problem should be the validity of your PIO card.
  • The validity of PIO card:
    • Your PIO card is valid only until 30th September 2019 as an alternate for a visa when provided along with a valid foreign passport. After the deadline of 30.09.2019, handwritten PIO cards will not be accepted as a valid document to travel to India according to the ICAO guidelines.
  • Benefits of being a PIO cardholder:
    • If you already hold PIO card, then you can avail the following benefits,
      • i. Your PIO card is an alternative for a visa to travel to and from India. It permits multiple entries for multiple purposes.
      • ii. You can work/study in India without any special visa.
      • iii. Special counters for fast immigration clearance at all international airports
      • iv. 180 days of continuous stay without any registration to FRRO (Foreigner Regional Registration Office) local police authorities.
      • v. Financial/economic/educational benefits at par with NRIs.
  • Disadvantages of being a PIO cardholder:
    • The limitations of PIO card extends beyond its upcoming expiration.
      • i. A PIO card is valid only for 15 years. In case your PIO card expired before 30.09.2015, then you must apply for an OCI card in lieu of the PIO card.
      • ii. You may not hold a government job. (but can work for a private concern without conditions)
      • iii. You cannot vote or hold government jobs.
      • iv. If your purpose of the visit is not full filled in 180 days, then you need to register to FRRO or local police authorities within 30 days.
      • v. You need special permission to do research work in India from the Indian Mission/FRRO/Post.
      • vi. You cannot purchase agricultural land.

OCI – Overseas Citizen of India:

  • Eligibility for OCI card:
    • The Ministry of Home Affairs defines an OCI as a person who:
    • Was a citizen of India on or after 26th January 1950; or
    • Was eligible to become a citizen of India on 26th January 1950; or
    • Is a child or grandchild of such a person, among other eligibility criteria.
    • According to Section 7A of the OCI card rules, an applicant is not eligible for the OCI card if he, his parents or grandparents have ever been a citizen of Pakistan or Bangladesh.
    • The category was introduced by the government in 2005. The Government of India via Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2015 merged the Person of Indian Origin (PIO) category with OCI category in 2015.
    • Spouse of OCI cardholder is eligible to apply for OCI card only after completion of two years of registered and subsisted marriage, provided that the person had not been a citizen of Pakistan, Bangladesh or such country listed by the Central Government.
    • However, a person isn’t entitled to apply for any of these cards, if the person or their ancestors at any time was a citizen of Pakistan, Bangladesh, and others as specified by the rules laid by the Government of India.
  • Validity & Renewal of OCI card:
    • The OCI card acts as a VISA to enter India for any purpose multiple times with life-long validity when carried along with a valid foreign passport.
    • Even though the OCI card is said to have lifelong validity, it needs to be renewed after expiry of the foreign passport of the OCI cardholder; and after reaching the age of 20 years of the OCI cardholder; after reaching the age of 50 years of the OCI cardholder.
    • The processing time for renewal of the OCI card will be around a maximum of 10 to 12 weeks.
  • Benefits of being an OCI cardholder:
    • The benefits of holding an OCI card are as follows,
      • i. Multiple entries to visit India for lifelong for multi-purposes.
      • ii. You need NOT register with FRRO or local police authorities even after a continuous stay of 180 days.
      • iii. You can work/study in India without any special permission just like Indian nationals.
      • iv. Special counters for fast immigration clearance at all international airports
      • v. Financial/economic/educational benefits are on par with NRIs.
      • vi. Parity with Resident Indians in charges for Domestic Airfares/National Parks/Wild Life Sanctuaries/Museums/Historical sites etc.
      • vii. If an individual is registered as an OCI for a period of five years, he/she is eligible to apply for Indian citizenship.
  •  Disadvantages of being an OCI cardholder:
    • The limitations of an OCI cardholder are bare when compared with the facilities offered to an Indian Resident. If you are an OCI cardholder, then your restrictions are,
      • i. You cannot purchase agricultural land.
      • ii. You may not hold a government job. (but can work for a private concern without conditions)
      • iii. You cannot vote or hold government jobs.
      • iv. You need special permission to do research work in India from the Indian Mission/FRRO/Post.

 

Constitutional Provisions:
  • The Constitution deals with citizenship from Articles 5 to 11 under Part II. However, it contains neither any permanent nor any elaborate provisions in this regard.
  • It only identifies the persons who became citizens of India on 26th January 1950 (i.e. when the Constitution commenced).
  • It empowers the Parliament to enact a law to provide for matters relating to citizenship. Accordingly, the Parliament has enacted the Citizenship Act, 1955, which has been recently amended in 2015.
Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019:
  • Additional Ground for Cancelling Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) Registration i.e. violation of any law notified by the central government.
  • It provides wide discretion to the government to cancel OCI registrations for both major offences like murder, as well as minor offences like parking in a no-parking zone or jumping a red light.