through. The question is, what is the purpose of this surrender certificate, especially when the passports expired
GOPIO has suggested that a solution to this problem is
that those who have become naturalized citizen before
2000 and whose Indian passports have already expired
need not obtain surrender certificates, since those old passports are no more valid documents.
GOPIO has also made other suggestions:
1. Reduce the passport-surrender fee of $175 from those
who became naturalized citizens after June 1, 2010 to $20
and give three months for surrender; if the passport is not
surrendered, charge a fee of $175.
2. GOPIO also requested that the government of India
relax the current rigid requirements to obtain surrender
certificates for those whose passports have been misplaced
Families have canceled trips to India since one or more of
their family members did not get their visas. Senior citizens
of Indian origin who are naturalized citizens face bigger
problems in getting Indian visas since many of them have
lost or misplaced their old Indian passports and they find
it difficult to go through the process of submitting affidavits needed to get the surrender certificate. Many Indian
Americans are also not being able to travel to India during
emergencies because of the problem of getting a visa quickly. Some consulates do have a service to issue a visa in an
emergency for an additional fee.
These passport-surrender rules have alienated a large
number of NRIs and PIO. These issues have been brought
to the attention of officials in the Overseas Indian Affairs
ministry as well as India’s ministry of external affairs. The
Indian home, Diaspora and foreign ministry officials
should meet and resolve these pressing issues immediately.
Issues related to investment in real estate
Many global Indians are keeping their emotional ties
alive to their motherland by maintaining their hereditary
property, and the Diaspora is committed to contribute
financially and otherwise to India’s growth and progress.
Many NRIs/PIO have substantially invested and/or are in
the process of investing in residential and commercial real
estate. However, there have been a growing number of
scams against global Indians’ hereditary, residential and
commercial properties. This greatly discourages them from
AMI T DAVE/ REU TERS
investing in India. One of the main reasons for these growing scams is that the global Indian is at a great disadvantage to contest property issues in Indian courts — due to
the length of the time (15 to 20 years) they take, and/or due
to the fact that in both civil and criminal cases, NRIs/PIO
need to be present on many occasions before the court.
Despite several attempts to bring this problem to the attention of Indian government agencies and ministers, no corrective measure has been taken so far. India’s Diaspora
ministry too organized a seminar on this issue at the
Pravasi Bharatiya Divas in 2010.
The Indian government should enact legislation to designate fast-track courts for the Diaspora for the speedy settlement of their property issues.
Representation in the Indian parliament
Although the Indian government has implemented voting rights for citizens living outside India, it will be
extremely difficult for those citizens to travel to India during elections to vote in their constituencies. One way for
them to participate in the democratic process would be to
have representation for overseas citizens in the Indian parliament. The Indian parliament should pass a constitutional amendment to have up to five Lok Sabha — the Lower
House — seats to provide representation to 10 million
Indian citizens living outside India. With advances in
information technology, it is not difficult to physically conduct such an election among NRIs who still have their
Indian passports. If India aspires for progress, such opportunities have to be provided to Indian citizens living outside India to be full participants in India’s development. As
a start, the Indian president should nominate a couple of
NRIs to the Rajya Sabha (the Upper House).
With increasing trend in migration, the Diaspora population outside India is likely to increase. Let India show to
the world that Indian citizens, wherever they are, are full
participants in India’s democracy and India’s development.
Needed: More new initiatives
India’s Diaspora ministry has several new initiatives to
tap the Diaspora’s resources for India’s development.
However, many of these are still to take off.
The Overseas Indian Facilitation Center, a joint effort of
the Overseas Indian Affairs ministry and the
Confederation of Indian Industry, has been a welcome initiative. But even after three years, the OIFC has just organized seminars and helped a few hundred NRIs/PIO. A
greater effort is needed by the OIFC to partner with overseas Indian community groups.
The Global-Indian Network of Knowledge, a partnership
program of the OIFC and Tata Consultancy Services for
professionals and technologists to contribute to India, has
still not become an effective vehicle. Although considerable
efforts have been put, there is a disconnect between what
can be offered by the Diaspora and what India needs. Even
the participation so far has not been encouraging. These
need to be sorted out.
The Prime Minster’s Global Advisory Council has over
two dozen well-known members. However, many of them
don’t even have knowledge of the Diaspora and some of
them being CEOs of large companies don’t even have the
time to think of what the Diaspora can offer to India.
Generally, half the members don’t even attend the meetings held in conjunction with the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas.
The Know India Program for Diaspora youth is an excellent initiative. However, only about 100 youngsters can
participate in a year. This program should be increased to
a couple of thousand youth. India must cultivate the
Diaspora youth, who will be its future ambassadors.
The Pravasi Bharatiya Divas should be re-evaluated for
its programs. Until and unless new initiatives and ideas are
brought in for developing the program, its effectiveness
will further go down. The sessions and speakers should be
carefully chosen — to develop a programs that will motivate the Diaspora to attend. If this is a convention of overseas Indians, they should be very much involved in its planning.
India’s ministries of commerce, science and technology,
power, alternative energy, agriculture, rural development,
and tourism should have separate NRI Advisory
Committees with which ministry officials should meet on a
regular basis to seek ways to involve the Diaspora in developmental activities related to the individual ministries.
Such advisory committees existed informally in a couple of
Price discrimination in hotels, heritage sites
It is a poor policy to differentiate between the citizens of
India and NRIs/PIO by asking them to pay more for the
same hotel accommodation and for the same entrance ticket to heritage sites like the Taj Mahal. Indians abroad are
gravely concerned over this double standard. At GOPIO’s
request, the Prime Minister’s Office in 2006 did take some
action on this issue, but it has not been implemented properly; the anomaly still exists.
Needed: Public-private partnership in new-tech business-
To motivate private companies and young entrepreneurs,
the federal and state government agencies as well as semi-government agencies should establish mechanisms to
launch public-private partnership to promote innovations,
technology development and commercialization. Here,
Diaspora businessmen and entrepreneurs could also a play
There should be Centers of Excellence initiated by the
Indian government as well as the state governments
around Indian Institutes of Technology, National Institutes
of Technology and other leading Indian engineering and
science institutions. Diaspora scientists and technologists
could be part of such centers. From federal ministries like
science and technology, power, health, environment and
alternative energy, development funds should be allocated
for small business innovative research related to new technologies.
Diaspora can help commercialize Indian tech
With India spending enormous funds for industrial
research and development, we need to recover that investment by commercializing the R&D findings to useful technologies. The Diaspora can help to commercialize such
technologies from CSIR and other laboratories.
Dr Thomas Abraham, a materials scientist and veteran
Indian-American community leader, was the first president of the Federation of Indian Associations of New York
and the National Federation of Indian American
Associations. He founded GOPIO in 1989 and served as it
president and chairman for 20 years