Inder Singh, chairman, Global Organization of People of Indian Origin International, who has
been attending the Pravasi Bharatiya
Divas since 2004, says this might be
his last visit.
“The excitement has not been there,”
the 81-year-old told India Abroad.
“Personally you gain nothing. It’s
about community involvement.” Also
attending the PBD, he said, was
expensive. Pegging the amount
between $5,000 to $10,000 — what
he called a conservative estimate — he
said, “You have to spend from your
To add to that the government has
raised the entry fee this year; a ticket
cost $250 to $300, depending on the
days you attend.
The 12th edition of PBD is themed
‘Engaging Diaspora: Connecting
Across Generations.’ GOPIO, which takes up
issues of the Indian Diaspora, is represented by a large delegation at the event. This year they will focus on ‘ The Indian
Diaspora: Engaging PIOs of Today and Tomorrow.’
Singh has been involved in tackling various visa-related
issues and the issue of the high fee attached to ‘surrender
certificate.’ “We fought with the Indian government and we
just asked for what we deserve,” he said.
He is also involved in the remodeling of the Gadar memo-
rial building in San Francisco. The Gadar movement cele-
brated its centenary year in 2013, and in honor of that
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had released a
postal stamp at PBD and announced an upgrade for the
Gadar museum in San Francisco — where the movement
started — to a functional library and museum. The provi-
sions for this were included in the India’s budget last year.
Singh lobbied hard for this and on his agenda was a meet-
ing with the Finance Ministry and the Ministry of Overseas
Indian Affairs to clarify the updates on
the project. “Being an international
chairman we have to find out where we
stand with regard to this building,” he
He also brought up the functioning
of BLS International US, a visa application center that was awarded contract
this year by the Indian government He
accused the company of having inefficient and careless staff and said users
had faced problems in the US as well as
“This company have not been able to
deliver,” he said. “All we want from the
government is to give us visa and they
can’t even deliver that.”
Singh said he would also raise the
issues surrounding the passports of
Overseas Citizens of India — especially
the requirement of reapplying for a new
passport for those below 20 and over 50
years of age.
He said the Indian government was
going to merge the Person of Indian Origin card and OCI
card, and added, “We have to see what new rules are com-
We have given them input and the parliament has authorized to move ahead and merge the two. PIO gives only 15
years of visa. When you get Green Card in the US, it’s for
lifetime and it does not ask for your photo or to reapply
after a certain age. We have asked them why don’t they follow the American system.”
‘All we want from the government
is to give us visa’
ment is to create two or three Lokh Sabha
seats for NRIs and appoint a couple of
NRIs to the Rajya Sabha.
Need for fast track courts
Many NRIs/PIOs keep their emotional
ties alive to their motherland by maintaining their hereditary property. They are
committed to contributing financially and
otherwise to the growth and progress of
They have substantially invested or are
in the process of investing in residential
and commercial real estate.
But there have been a growing number
of scams related to NRIs/PIOs hereditary,
residential and commercial properties.
Most overseas Indians who have hereditary property are at a great disadvantage
to contest property issues in Indian
courts, which take an unusually long time.
NRIs/PIOs need to be present on many
occasions before the courts.
PBD 2009 took up this issue, but we are
yet see corrective measures from the cen-
tral government agencies and state gov-
The Diaspora would like to approach
fast track courts for the speedy settlement
of their property issues.
NRI advisory committees
The Indian ministries of commerce, science and technology, power, alternative
energy, agriculture, rural development
and tourism should have separate
NRI/PIO advisory committees which
should meet on a regular basis to seek
ways to involve overseas Indians in developmental activities related to the individual ministries.
Public and private partnerships to pro-
mote new technology business
To motivate private companies and
young entrepreneurs, the central and
state government agencies as well as
semi-government agencies should estab-
lish mechanism to launch public and pri-
vate partnerships to promote innovations
and technology development and com-
mercialization. Here the Diaspora busi-
nessmen as well as entrepreneurs could a
large play role.
There should be centers of excellence
initiated by the central government as
well as the state governments around various Indian Institutes of Technology and
other leading engineering and science
Diaspora scientists and technologists
could be part of such centers. There are a
few such centers in India now and PBD is
the right opportunity to invite such eminent technologists and entrepreneurs to
visit and interact with their counterparts.
With the Indian government spending
enormous funds for industrial research
and development, we need to recover that
investment by commercializing the
research and development findings to
NRIs/PIOs can help to commercialize
such technologies from CSIR and other
During earlier PBDs a few seminars
were organized on nanotechnology, solar
energy products and pure sciences.
However, the net outcome has been poor
since not enough groundwork was done
to attract the right players among
NRIs/PIOs and from India. It was like a
botched up effort to organize such seminars.
NRI/PIOs as global citizens have done
a great job in building a good image for
their motherland in their respective
countries. They have worked behind the
scene to create interest among companies
to take interest in India.
Similar to what China has accomplished to become a powerful country in
the world with the help of its Diaspora,
Indian Diaspora is also contributing to
make India reach new heights of success.
Dr Thomas Abraham founded the Global
Forging a new role
Organization of People of Indian Origin
and now serves as its executive trustee. He
is also a board member of the South Asian
Council for Social Services. Dr Abraham
was received the Pravasi Bharatiya
Samman Award in 2008.
HI TESH HARISINGHANI
GOPIO International hopes to bring up the issues
surrounding the functioning of BLS International and the
passports of Overseas Citizens of India at PBD 2014.