What is the status of dual citizenship to PIOs?
The bill has been signed by the President and the process to grant the citizenship will begin within a month. As planned earlier, we will begin with 16 countries and it will be extended to 70 others later. Once implemented, PIOs won’t require visa to travel to India and they will also enjoy a number of other benefits which are only given to Indian citizens so far.
Will PIOs get voting rights or the right to contest elections in India?
What are the priority areas of your ministry? Since this is a new ministry, what work is expected to be allocated to it?
The final meeting on allocation of work is on August 6. The key functions of the ministry are likely to be:
• To provide a single window clearance set-up for facilitating participation of the diaspora in India's economic, social and technological advancement.
• To tap the huge foreign investment potential of diaspora, especially in real estate. In fact, we have proposed a city-within-a-city project, especially for the NRIs. The pilot project will be launched in Bangalore, and if it succeeds, it will be replicated in other cities as well.
• To facilitate early redress of problems of overseas Indians. We have also mooted a proposal to set-up special NRI courts to speed-up the legal process.
• To provide protection to Indian workers and migrants from abuse and exploitation of any kind, in other countries. We also plan to conduct regular studies of oversees job markets and provide training to Indian workers according to the need.
Is there a proposal to conduct a census of NRIs and PIOs?
The ministry may not exactly conduct a census, but plans to create a database of NRIs and PIOs.
Fake marriages are rampant among NRIs. Are you planning any legislation to curb this menace?
Not a legislation, but we are planning to set-up a special cell in several countries, which will probe the background of the prospective brides and grooms — like if they are already married or whether the individual has a proper job. We will charge a nominal fee for this service. I hope this facility will give some respite to prospective brides/grooms and their families.
Nurses are reportedly being trafficked from India to work as bonded labour in Scottish nursing homes. A research commissioned by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), to be published later this year, has also found widespread abuse among overseas nurses in Scottish care homes. What is the NRI ministry doing to tackle this issue?
We are coming-up with a comprehensive policy for workers and labourers working in foreign countries, which will safeguard their interests.
The government has allocated a paltry sum of Rs 7 crore (Rs 70 million) to NRI Affairs Ministry. Considering that even Delhi Police’s annual budget is Rs. 700 crore, do you think it erodes the importance given to Indians abroad?
The ministry’s job is not to construct schools or generate jobs in India. This sum is given to set-up an office here. As of now, the amount allocated to us is sufficient. If we conduct any offshore activity, we will be granted more funds.
What are the other initiatives being planned by the ministry?
Lots of things. We plan to invite young people of Indian origin from different countries to visit India under a new programme called "My Village My Pride". It is modelled after a highly popular Israeli scheme meant for people of Israeli origin living abroad.
Then there are events like the Festivals of India, Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, Pravasi Bharatiya Samman... We are still in the process of finalising the agenda for the ministry.