The Indian diaspora today constitutes an important, and in some respects unique, force in world culture. The origins of the modern Indian diaspora lie mainly in the subjugation of India by the British and its incorporation into the British empire. Indians were taken over as indentured labor to far-flung parts of the empire in the nineteenth-century, a circumstance to which the modern Indian populations of Fiji, Mauritius, Guyana, Trinidad, Surinam, Malaysia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, and other places attest in their own peculiar ways.
Over two million Indian men fought on behalf of the empire in numerous wars, including the Boer War and the two World Wars, and some remained behind to claim the land on which they had fought as their own. As if in emulation of their ancestors, many Gujarati traders once again left for East Africa in large numbers in the early part of the twentieth century. Finally, in the post-World War II period, the dispersal of Indian labor and professionals has been a nearly world-wide phenomenon. Indians, and other South Asians, provided the labor that helped in the reconstruction of war-torn Europe, particularly the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, and in more recent years unskilled labor from South Asia has been the main force in the transformation of the physical landscape of much of the Middle East.
Meanwhile, in countries such as the United States, Canada, and Australia, Indians have made their presence visibly felt in the professions.
The religious practices of Hindus, Sikhs, and Muslims in the U.S. and other overseas communities might be assisting in transforming the nature of religious faiths in India itself. Hindus all over the world are showing alarming signs of susceptibility to a resurgent and militant Hinduism; indeed, it is even arguable that they seem to know the meaning of Hinduism better than do Hindus in the ‘motherland’
Definition and Concepts
A Person of Indian Origin (PIO) is a foreign national who is of Indian origin e.g. previously held Indian citizenship, or was born in India, or his or her parents were Indian citizens. This is a status therefore associated with your citizenship and not residence. A PIO may be living in India or overseas.
Every person of Indian origin who is a citizen of another country, NOT being a citizen of any country that may be specified by the Government of India from time to time, will be eligible to apply for PIO Card if: (i) the person at any time held an Indian passport; or (ii) the person or either of his/her parents or grandparents or great grandparents was born in, and was permanently resident in India, provided further that neither was at any time a citizen of any of the aforesaid excluded countries; or (iii) the person is the spouse of a citizen of India or a person of Indian origin covered under (i) or (ii) above.
Presently, the specified countries whose nationals are ineligible for grant of PIO Card are Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Afghanistan, Iran, China and Nepal. Further, if the applicant himself or either of his parents, grandparents or great grandparents held the nationality of these specified countries at any time, he will not be granted PIO Card. Iranian nationals of Indian origin can be considered for grant of PIO card. The Missions or other agency authorised to issue PIO card would obtain prior clearance from the Ministry of Home Affairs before issuing the card to an Iranian national.
A Non Resident Indian (NRI) as per India’s Foreign Exchange Management Act 1999 (FEMA), is an Indian citizen or Foreign National of Indian Origin resident outside India for purposes of employment, carrying on business or vocation in circumstances as would indicate an intention to stay outside India for an indefinite period.An individual will also be considered NRI if his stay in India is less than 182 days during the preceding financial year.
A person who is not a citizen of India is deemed to be of Indian origin if he is not a citizen of Pakistan or Bangladesh and if
• he at any time held an Indian passport; or
• he or either of his parents or any of his grandparents was a citizen of India by virtue of the Constitution of India or Citizenship Act, 1955.
A spouse (not being a citizen of Pakistan or Bangladesh) of an Indian citizen or of a Person of Indian Origin is also treated as a Person of Indian Origin for the purpose of NRI deposits if the accounts are held jointly with the NRI/PIO spouse.
PIOs are extended the same facilities for bank account maintenance in India as NRIs and are also, for such purposes, called by the generic name as NRIs.
Emigration, Immigration, and Diaspora Relations in India
India has one of the world’s most diverse and complex migration histories. Since the 19th century, ethnic Indians have established communities on every continent as well as on islands in the Caribbean and the Pacific and Indian oceans.
The composition of flows has evolved over time from mainly indentured labor in far-flung colonies to postwar labor for British industry to high-skilled professionals in North America and low-skilled workers in the Middle East. In addition, ethnic Indians in countries like Kenya and Suriname have migrated to other countries, a movement called secondary migration.
In ancient times, Indian traders established bases around the Indian and the Pacific oceans, especially in East Africa and Western and Southeast Asia. However, those flows were not the basis for Indian migration in the 19th century or the global dispersion seen today.
Following the abolition of slavery, first by the British in 1833 and subsequently by other colonial powers such as France, the Netherlands, and Portugal, the colonies urgently needed manpower, particularly on sugar and rubber plantations. To meet this demand, the British established an organized system of temporary labor migration from the Indian subcontinent. On the labor-supply side of the equation, poverty among the South Asian peasantry accounted for the principal reason to leave the subcontinent.
Isolated from the rest of the local population, colonial rulers housed the workers in barracks and regulated their lives in almost every regard, with severe punishments for disobedience and “insufficient work.” The poor living conditions and almost unlimited employer control led historian Hugh Tinker to label the system a “new form of slavery.”
During roughly the same period, another form of labor migration was taking place. Tapping the labor surplus of South India, mostly in Tamil Nadu, the managers of tea, coffee, and rubber plantations in Sri Lanka, Malaya (part of present-day Malaysia), and Burma authorized Indian headmen, known as kangani or maistry, to recruit entire families and ship them to plantations.
Until a decision by the Indian Supreme Court in 1966, the issuance of passports was considered a discretionary instrument of the Indian government to conduct its foreign relations.
The Supreme Court established the “right to travel” as a fundamental right under the Indian constitution, following which the Indian parliament enacted the Passports Act of 1967. However, the act contains several provisions to refuse the issuance of a passport if the government thinks this would not be in “public interest.”
In the first decades after independence, unskilled, skilled, and professional workers (mostly male Punjabi Sikhs) migrated from India to the United Kingdom. This is commonly attributed to Britain’s postwar demand for low-skilled labor, postcolonial ties, and the United Kingdom’s commonwealth immigration policy, which allowed any citizen of a Commonwealth country to live, work, vote, and hold public office in the United Kingdom.
By the mid-1960s, most Indians coming to the United Kingdom were dependents according to government statistics; dependents made up 75 percent of all Indians entering in 1965 and 80 percent in 1966. Flows peaked in 1968, at just over 23,000. Between 1970 and 1996, an average of 5,800 Indian immigrants landed every year in the United Kingdom. Indian immigration sharply increased again between 1995 and 2005.
Overall, the Indian foreign born are highly skilled: The U.S. Census Bureau’s 2008 American Community Survey found that 74.1 percent held at least a bachelor’s degree, and 68.9 percent reported working in management, professional, and related occupations.
The total size of the Indian community — meaning those born in India, the foreign born of Indian ethnicity (e.g., those born in Fiji or Trinidad), and the U.S.-born children of Indian immigrants — surpassed 2.5 million in 2007
The Diaspora’s Economic Contributions to the Homeland
Since 2003, India has been the world’s largest recipient, at least in absolute terms, of remittances, defined as the inflow of private transfers. From a modest US$2.1 billion in 1990-1991, remittances through formal channels were pegged at US$52 billion in 2008
Generally, it is assumed that remittances through informal channels are significant as well. Despite the lack of data on such channels, it is believed that for India, informal channels do not play a major role. Professional migrants to industrialized countries are more likely to use formal channels and temporary labor migrants often hold special accounts with Indian banks that have established a presence in the gulf countries.
Also, in relative terms, remittances gained considerable importance since they now make up a larger chunk of India’s gross domestic product: 3.3 percent in 2007 according to the World Bank versus 0.7 percent in 1990-1991 according to the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).
But over the last decade, data from RBI shows, the migration of professional migrants to Western countries drove the sharp increase in remittances. Between 1997 and 2004, two-thirds of all received funds came from the United States, Canada, and Europe, and more than half of all transferred funds received in 2003 and 2004 originated from Northern America alone.
In addition to remittances, India has seen growth in capital inflows. In the 1970s, the government authorized special deposit schemes for non-resident Indians (NRIs) to increase its foreign-exchange reserves; depositors can hold their money in foreign currencies or in Indian rupees. NRI deposits grew steadily from US$14 billion in 1991 to US$ 43.7 billion in 2008.
Role in IT
Diasporas have emerged as one of the agents of development in today’s world. India’s experience with the IT industry can be cited as one of the best instances of Diaspora-induced development. The Indian Diaspora has shared a symbiotic relationship with the Indian IT industry, where both have reinforced each other’s quantitative and qualitative growth over the decades. On the one hand, the Indian Diaspora brought a multi-layered gain to the IT industry in terms of enhanced skills; capital formation (human, social and financial); inward remittances; foreign direct investment flows; creation of networks/markets and a boost for India’s image. On the other hand, the Indian IT industry created a strong incentive for the mobility of highly skilled professionals and provided the Diaspora with the much needed opportunity to engage with their motherland.
Although no reliable statistics exist, anecdotally it appears an increasing number of Indians have returned in recent years. Returnees can benefit their home countries by contributing enhanced skills, which can be used in the country of origin (human capital); access to business networks abroad (social capital); and financial capital and investment.
The Indian information technology (IT) industry is widely regarded as a showcase for this triple-benefit formula. Figures from India’s national software association NASSCOM show that North America (predominately the United States) accounted for two-thirds of India’s IT exports from 2004 to 2007. While the industry’s success is attributable to other factors, the impact of the diaspora and returnees from the United States particularly is believed to be important for three reasons.
First, several studies have shown that Indians who returned from the United States have founded and managed successful IT companies in India. Second, some Indians who founded companies in Silicon Valley have subcontracted work to companies in India. These entrepreneurs often serve as intermediaries between the markets. Third, the success of Indian IT professionals in the United States has created trust in the country’s intellectual abilities abroad. It has been a major factor in branding India as a source of well-educated and hard-working professionals, rather than a poverty-ridden country of snake charmers.
Key initiatives led by the Indian Diaspora
In the early decades after independence, mostly during the 1950s until the 1960s, several post-colonial nations, including India, followed a closed model of nation-building and development planning. The primary intention of these governments was to safeguard the economic interests of these newly emerging nations from the vulnerability of being too exposed to the outside world and from being too dependent on external resources to develop their burgeoning economies.
Development models that were adopted were essentially based on consolidation within and gradual progression towards self-reliance on various sectors of the economy. There was a strong emphasis on the construction and consolidation of a territorially determined nation and citizens who could claim entitlements as well as engage in the process of ‘national reconstruction’ or development. In this nationalist discourse of development, the people who were not staying within the territorial boundaries of the nation, labelled loosely as diasporas, were viewed with a certain apprehension for their lack of commitment to the nation they had once lived in.
This would change with the process of globalisation, with its intense flows of commodities, labour and capital, and unprecedented levels and means of communication. Put differently, globalisation has contributed to a symbiotic relationship between countries and transnational flows of human beings and capital. New diasporic communities, with their attachments to multiple national locations, economies and cultures facilitated by new technologies, have become important contours of the ‘new, post-national cartography’ of the global world.
In fact, for a long time, particularly during the Nehru and Indira Gandhi regimes, the government had been accused of being indifferent to the concerns of the Indian diaspora. This alleged indifference has often been judged as a missed opportunity.
When the right-wing-dominated Indian government conducted a series of nuclear tests in May 1998, the response of the developed world was moral condemnation and the imposition of economic sanctions. The government approached the diaspora, particularly those who had acquired considerable wealth and positions of prominence in their countries of settlement, for support to top up depleting foreign exchange reserves. On an experimental basis, the government offered the diaspora a special investment opportunity in the form of the Resurgent India Bond 1998.
This Resurgent India Bond generated about US$4.2 billion helped India withstand economic sanctions to a considerable extent. This encouraging response by the diaspora reinforced in the minds of the government and Indian citizens the enormous economic potential of the diaspora. The government subsequently began pondering seriously about drawing up a comprehensive and sustainable long-term strategy aimed at utilising the diaspora’s resources for development. Meanwhile, success stories of NRIs now constituted part of the national rhetoric to celebrate India’s rise and to announce its arrival on the world stage and its integration into the global order.
Global Indian Family: From 2000 Onwards
Despite the celebrations of the role of the Indian diaspora and attempts made to involve them in matters of home, the government did not have a comprehensive policy or structural set up to engage with this community. A parliamentary committee was instituted by the government to outline the economic strength, cultural concerns and potentialities of the Indian diaspora and to determine the possible contributions they could make to develop India.
In response to this long-felt need to understand the composition, complexities and concerns of the Indian diaspora, the government established the High Level Committee on Indian Diaspora in August 2000 to study the diverse histories of this community and to suggest ways in which they could contribute to India’s development. This was, according to the official narrative, the beginning of a new phase in India’s relationship with her diaspora, with the motherland sensitive to the hopes, aspirations and concerns of its vast diaspora and with the government willing to take ‘parental charge’.
Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs
The government established the Ministry of Non-Resident Indians’ Affairs in May 2004, later renamed the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs, as the nodal ministry for all matters relating to the Indian diaspora. Positioned as a ‘service ministry’, its mission is to ‘establish a robust and vibrant institutional framework to facilitate and support mutually beneficial networks with and among overseas Indians to maximise the development impact for India and enable overseas Indians to invest in and benefit from opportunities in India’.
In order to draw upon the experiences and knowledge of eminent members of the Indian diaspora, the MOIA instituted the Prime Minister’s Global Advisory Council of Overseas Indians in January 2009. This council was to provide inputs for policy formulation, programme planning and the direct involvement of the prime minister in the processes involving the Indian diaspora.
The MOIA initiated several service divisions and schemes to address the concerns of the Indian diaspora, particularly those who were not so privileged. In 2008, it started the Indian Council of Overseas Employment (ICOE) as an advisory body. The ICOE undertakes empirical, analytical and policy-related research, documents good practices, and provides assistance in the form of capacity building for stakeholders at the provincial level.
A large number of diasporic Indians, particularly those in the Gulf region and Southeast Asia, work as low-skilled workers and face a number of challenges including fraudulent methods of recruitment by employers who exploit them. The MOIA has started an Overseas Workers’ Resource Centre to provide support services for intending emigrants.
In addition to these administrative/executive initiatives at the central government, several state governments, particularly those with a large diasporic population, also established exclusive administrative institutions to facilitate their engagement with this diaspora. These institutions include the Non-Resident Keralites Affairs Department, NRI Division in Gujarat, and the NRI Commissioner in Andhra Pradesh and Punjab. These institutions invoke regional and ethnic affiliations such as Keralite, Gujarati and Punjabi identity to secure the attention of diasporic Indians.
The government emphasised culture when approaching the diaspora as a means to reinforce their cultural attachments to India. The government invoked certain cultural symbols to appeal to the diaspora and to emphasise their sense of belonging to India. One such cultural metaphor was reference to India (their country of origin) as the ‘motherland’. Such rhetoric was to remind the diaspora not only about their belonging to India but also of their loyalty and obligations to the motherland.
The most visible spectacle of these cultural symbols is the PBD, or the day to commemorate diasporic Indians, an event organised annually since January 2003. The choice of 9 January as the date to celebrate the PBD had high levels of symbolism; Mahatma Gandhi, now designated as the greatest diasporic Indian, returned from South Africa on this day in 1915.
Articulating the rhetoric of the association between the home and diaspora, or the link between ‘mother India’ and ‘children abroad’, the PBD aimed at bringing the diaspora home as well as showcasing the achievements and opportunities the post-colonial home nation could offer—a home that the diaspora could take pride in. This rhetoric of a singular Indian identity has dominated the discourse of the PBD. This rhetoric was best articulated by Prime Minister Vajpayee in his speech when he introduced the PBD. This emphasis on the ‘oneness’ of the diaspora is not restricted to the Indian government at the time of the conceptualisation and celebration of the first PBD.
Of equal rhetoric was the call made to the diaspora to participate in the ‘motherland’ and to play a crucial role in repositioning India in the new world order as a strong and dynamic economy:
The government’s primary intention, however, despite this rhetoric of cultural proximity and emotional belonging, was difficult to hide. The fact was that the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) was the facilitator of the PBD. The FICCI went on to organise trade shows, state pavilions and business meetings, underlining the pragmatic political-economic priorities of the PBD event.
The PBD represented a distinct shift in the policies and rhetoric of the government toward its diasporas, a change necessitated by its ambition to redefine its place on the world stage and promote the neoliberal economic strategy it had adopted. However, the essentialist notion of oneness—the creation of a ‘global Indian family’ tied to a nation—to extend the sovereign domination of the government over a transnational population ignores the historical and territorial narratives of difference within the Indian diaspora(s).
Another symbolic cultural initiative of the Indian government was the introduction of the Pravasi Bhartiya Samman Awards (Honour of the Diasporic Indians). These awards are presented by the president of India during the PBD, in appreciation of the significant contributions by individuals or organisations of the Indian diaspora. These awards apparently have helped to enhance India’s prestige in the countries of residence of the recipients of these awards. These awards have been conferred on many individuals and organisations, including several academics (Jagdish Bhagwati, Meghnad Desai, Bhikhu Parekh and Dipak Jain) and politicians such as Malaysia’s S. Samy Vellu.
Engaging the diaspora and reclaiming them as transnational components of the nation necessitated the rearticulating of ‘belonging’ and of entitlements as well as a review of erstwhile discourses of nation and citizenship. In the nationalist discourse, largely dominated by the Nehruvian perspective, citizenship of India involved the right to participate in the political process. This right was strongly guarded and embedded in the territorial markers stipulated in the Citizenship Act of 1955.
Subsequently, the Overseas Citizenship of India Scheme (OCI) was launched in August 2005. Initially, the scheme was only available to the PIOs of 16 countries in North America, Western Europe and Australia. In December 2005, it was extended to the PIOs of all countries except Pakistan and Bangladesh. OCIs were now on par with the NRIs in various aspects, including travel, investment, education and property. This, however, was not to be misread as ‘dual nationality’ as it did not confer political rights. The OCI tag received an encouraging response from the Indian diaspora (specifically the PIOs). By 14 February 2012, a total number of 1,029,131 PIOs had been registered as OCIs.
Another significant step by the government to foster the feeling of belonging in Indians outside India was by granting voting rights to Indian passport holders staying abroad; this was done by passing the Representation of Peoples Amendment Act 2010. This amendment allowed the NRIs to get their names included on the electoral roles, thereby enabling them to participate in electoral processes in India.
Since the reason for India’s engagement with the Indian diaspora was to secure economic contributions to develop India, the initiatives taken by the government in this domain were crucial. Interventions in the economic sector were also necessary as the government had to overcome a lack of trust among diasporic Indians based on their previous experiences in the country—cheating, fraud, cumbersome bureaucracy, corruption—and to ensure that financial transfers and property rights flowing from their investments were well protected.
These initiatives were primarily of two types: first, creating certain institutions to facilitate the exchanges and involvement of the diaspora and to protect their interests; and second, initiatives related to fiscal measures. The government was already pursuing a policy of incentives and liberal norms conducive for the diaspora, such as higher interest rates on monetary deposits. However, considering the ambitious schemes of diasporic economic involvement that the government was envisioning, several facilitating and coordinating agencies were urgently required.
The first and most crucial institution that was established was the Overseas Indian Facilitation Centre (OIFC), in 2007 and in partnership with the Confederation of Indian Industry. The OIFC’s main objectives were to secure Indian diaspora investments, facilitate business partnerships, function as a clearing house for all investment related information, and provide advisory services to investors about opportunities and trends in the Indian economy. Diaspora philanthropy constitutes an integral part of the ‘diaspora development’ paradigm, and to streamline this sector the government instituted the Indian Development Foundation of Overseas Indians (IDF-OI).
The IDF-OI was to serve as a credible institutional avenue to engage in philanthropy and social entrepreneurship to help advance India’s social development.
Initiatives related to fiscal measures included tax exemptions for diasporic investments, providing higher interest rates on such investments through dedicated savings and deposit mobilisation schemes such as the NRI accounts, automatic clearance of business proposals after a stipulated time, changes in regulation of foreign exchange, and foreign direct investment (FDI) incentives such as allowing the Indian diaspora up to 100% ownership in civil aviation, real estate and education ventures.
Responses from the Diaspora
According to the government, ‘India has been deeply appreciative of the support of the Pravasi Bhartiya community, at times of need. However, the capacities and interest of people of Indian origin worldwide vary enormously according to their class composition and their location. As a result of this, India’s engagement with people of Indian origin has taken on many different forms and occupies so many different spheres. These forms range from levels of personal family ties to business ventures involving international financial markets.
A review of the responses of people of Indian origin underlines the complexity of their different historical trajectories in their different territorial and temporal locations. This diverse community cannot be bundled together and presented as a homogenising singular block called the Indian diaspora. It is evident that the descendants of Indian immigrants have not responded to calls by India to invest in its economic development. This diaspora cannot be labelled as the lost children of India.
The responses made by descendants of Indian immigrants in regions such as Southeast Asia need to be read differently because the metaphors of belonging and obligation to the ‘homeland’ may have a different meaning for them. India’s burgeoning economy with its rapidly growing middle class could well serve as an ideal investment opportunity, one that is made by this diaspora without subscribing to the government’s nationalist imagery of common Indian identity.
In the ‘diaspora development’ paradigm, remittances are considered ‘an important and stable source of external development finance’ which can have profound implications for economic growth. Remittances help reduce poverty, increase smaller business investments, contribute to higher expenditure on health and education, and build up human and financial capital. Remittances occur in two forms: direct fund transfer from a person abroad to one in India who is usually from the subaltern class; and local withdrawals from NRI accounts held by elite and professional segments of society.
India has emerged as the top country in terms of inflow of remittances, receiving 12.5% of the total inward flow of such transfers in the world and 66% of total inflows in South Asia. From a modest US$2,384 million in 1990, inward remittances grew astonishingly to US$63,663 million in 2011.
The initial primary source of these remittances was the Gulf. In 1990–91, remittances from the Gulf constituted 40% while the share from North America was 24%. Later North America replaced the Gulf as the most important source of remittances. In 2006, the share from the Gulf declined to 24% while remittances from North America swelled to 44%. However, in 2011–12, a sharp decline from North America was registered with a modest increase from the Gulf, making the latter the highest contributor, though by a modest margin. According to a 2012 report, 30.8% of total foreign remittances came from the Gulf while 29.4% was from North America.
While evaluating the impact of remittances, the foremost issue is the utilisation pattern. Other important factors are size and frequency of remittances. Higher use of remittances for consumption means reduced capital formation. Frequent remittances of a lesser amount indicate that the money transferred is used for family maintenance while less frequent and a larger amount of remittances suggests that they are for investment purposes.
Flagship Schemes for Indian Diaspora
The efforts made so far to make relationship of overseas Indians with India more cordial and mutual include various schemes for Overseas Indians comprising Persons of Indian Origin (PIO) and Non-Resident Indians (NRIs), Overseas Citizenship of India matters, Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Awards, Scholarships to NRI/PIO students in India and new initiatives to promote interaction and cordial relationship of overseas Indians with India in tourism, media, youth affairs, education, culture among other areas. The details are as follows:
(i) Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD)
To connect India to its vast overseas diaspora and bring their knowledge, expertise and skills on a common platform, the PBD Convention – the flagship event of MOIA is organized from 7th-9th January every year since 2003.
Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Awards (PBSA)
The Award shall be conferred on a Non-Resident Indian, Person of Indian Origin or an organization or institution established and run by Non-Resident Indians or Persons of Indian Origin, who has made significant contribution in any one of the following fields:
(a) Better understanding abroad of India;
(b) Support to India’s causes and concerns in a tangible way;
(c) Building closer links between India, the overseas Indian community and their country of residence;
(d) Social and humanitarian causes in India or abroad;
(e) Welfare of the local Indian community;
(f) Philanthropic and charitable work;
(g) Eminence in one’s field or outstanding work, which has enhanced India’s prestige in the country of residence; or
(h) Eminence in skills which has enhanced India’s prestige in that country (for non-professional workers).
It is conferred by the President of India as a part of the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD) Convention. PBSA is the highest honor conferred on overseas Indians. So far, 164 Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Awards have been conferred on PIOs and NRIs. During PBD 2014, 13 prominent Overseas Indians were given PBSAs for their notable contributions in different fields.
Regional Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (RPBD)
This Ministry organizes Regional Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (RPBD) to allow participation of the Indian diaspora who are unable to attend annual Pravasi Bharatiya Divas in India. So far, 7 Regional Pravasi Bharatiya Divas have been held at New York, Singapore, The Hague, Durban, Toronto, Mauritius and Sydney. These have elicited enthusiastic support from the Indian diaspora and the local Government and have been highly successful.
Know India Programme (KIP)
The objective of the Ministry’s Know India Programme is to help familiarize Indian Diaspora youth, in the age group of 18-26 years, with developments and achievements made by the country and bringing them closer to the land of their ancestors. KIP provides a unique forum for students and young professionals of Indian origin to visit India, share their views, expectations and experiences and to bond closely with contemporary India. The Ministry has conducted 28 editions of KIPs so far and a total of 866 overseas Indian youth participated in these programmes.
The participants are selected based on nominations received from Indian Missions/Posts abroad. They are provided hospitality and are reimbursed 90% of their economy class return airfare from their respective countries to India. The programme content broadly includes the following:
(a) Presentations on India, the Constitution, the political process, etc.
(b) Interaction with faculty and students at a prestigious University / College / Institute
(c) Presentation on industrial development and visit to some Industries
(d) Visit to a village to better understand the typical village life in India
(e) Exposure to Indian media and cinema
(f) Interaction with NGOs and organizations dealing with women’s issues
(g) Visits to places of historical importance or monuments
(h) Participation in Cultural programmes
(i) Exposure to Yoga
(j) Call on high dignitaries, which may include the President of India, the Chief Election Commissioner of India, the Comptroller and Auditor General of India, and Ministers in-charge of Overseas Indian Affairs, Youth Affairs and Sports, etc.
(v) Study India Programme (SIP)
The first ‘Study India Programme’ (SIP) was organized from 25 September to 23 October, 2012 in Symbiosis University, Pune, Maharashtra with participation of 9 youths of Indian origin from four countries like Trinidad & Tobago, Malaysia, Fiji and South Africa. Like KIP, SIP has immense potential of connecting youth Indian Diaspora with India through the channel of educational institutions.
The SIP enables Overseas Indian youth to undergo short term course in an Indian University to familiarize them with the history, heritage, art, culture, and socio-political, economic developments etc. of India. The focus of the programme is on academic orientation and research. Cost of boarding, lodging, local transportation, course fee during the programme and 90% of the cost of air-ticket by economy class is borne by Govt. of India. Gratis Visas by Indian Missions are granted to the participants.
The 2ndSIP was conducted from 01.11.2013 to 28.11.2013 at the Symbiosis University, Pune, and Maharashtra with the participation of 14 youths of Indian origin.
(vi) Scholarship Programme for Diaspora Children (SPDC)
A scheme called ‘Scholarship Programme for Diaspora Children (SPDC)’ was launched in the academic year 2006-07. Under the scheme 100scholarships upto US$ 4000 per annum are granted to PIO and NRI students for under graduate courses in Engineering/Technology, Humanities/Liberal Arts, Commerce, Management, Journalism, Hotel Management, Agriculture/Animal Husbandry etc. The scheme is being implemented by Educational Consultants India Limited (Ed. CIL), a Government of India Enterprise under the Ministry of Human Resource Development.
The scheme is open to NRIs / PIOs/OCIs from 40 countries with substantial Indian Diaspora population. A total of 660 candidates have availed the scholarship since inception of the scheme. SPDC scheme has been modified and it has been decided to do away with the “Common Entrance Test (CET)” for selecting PIO/OCI and NRI students for the award of scholarships. The applications from students who meet the prescribed eligibility criteria are evaluated and short listed by a selection committee consisting of officers from the Ministry of Human Resource Development.
(vii) Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) Card Scheme
Keeping in view Government’s deep commitment of engaging Persons of Indian Origin with the land of their ancestors in a mutually beneficial relationship, the Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) Scheme was launched in August, 2005 by amending the Citizenship Act, 1955. The OCI Scheme is operated by the Ministry of Home Affairs. The Scheme provides for registration as Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) of all Persons of Indian Origin (PIOs) who were citizens of India on or after 26 January, 1950 or were eligible to become citizens of India on 26 January, 1950 and who are citizens of other countries, except Pakistan and Bangladesh.
The Scheme provides for the issue of OCI documents consisting of OCI registration certificate and universal visa sticker to PIOs.
A registered Overseas Citizen of India is granted multiple entry, multi-purpose, life-long visa for visiting India, and is exempted from registration with Foreigners Regional Registration Office for any length of stay in India. As mandated under the Allocation of Business, the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs has issued notifications granting registered OCIs further benefits as under:
(i) Parity with Non-Resident Indians in the matter of inter-country adoption of Indian children;
(ii) Parity with resident Indian nationals in matters of tariffs in domestic airfares;
(iii) Parity with domestic Indian visitors in respect of entry fee for visiting national parks and wildlife sanctuaries in India;
(iv) Entitlement to appear for the All India Pre-Medical Test or such other tests to make them eligible for admission in pursuance of the provisions contained in the relevant Acts.
However, the OCI is not ‘dual nationality’. OCI does not confer political rights. Detailed instructions and procedures concerning the OCI Scheme are available in the MHA’s website: www.mha.nic.in.
An on-line OCI miscellaneous service is now available for issuance of duplicate OCI documents, in case of issuance of new passports, change of personal particulars, such as nationality, name, change of address/occupation etc. and loss/damage of OCI registration certificate/visa.
(viii) Tracing the Roots
The Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs is running a scheme since October 2008 known as “Tracing the Roots” to facilitate PIOs in tracing their roots in India. PIOs who intend to trace their roots in India need to apply in a prescribed Form, through the Indian Mission/Post in the country of their residence. Application Form for this purpose is available on the website. Persons of Indian origin desirous of tracing their roots in India would be required to fill up the prescribed application form and deposit it with the concerned Indian Mission/Post located in the country of their residence along with a fee of Rs.30,000 in equivalent US $, Euro or any other foreign currency acceptable to the Indian Mission/Post.
The traced details of roots in India, i.e. name of close surviving relative(s); place of origin of their forefathers (paternal and maternal side); and a possible family tree, are made available to the applicant.
In case the attempt is not successful, the Indian Mission is authorized to refund Rs.20,000 to the applicant.