The government on Monday launched an Overseas Indian Facilitation Centre (OIFC), a one-stop shop to help overseas Indians invest in India.
An agreement to this effect was signed between the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs (MOIA) and the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) at a function in New Delhi. The CII is the private sector partner and host institution of this not-for-profit neutral trust.
Speaking at the launch function, Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs Vayalar Ravi, who also launched a website of the new platform, www.oifc.in, said that the objective of the OIFC is to promote overseas Indian investment in India and facilitating business-to-business partnership between Indian businesses and overseas Indians.
"Overseas Indians number around 25 million and are spread across 130 countries," Ravi said. "We want overseas Indians to benefit from the investment opportunities in India."
"It (OIFC) is a public-private partnership and it will be self-sufficient," he said.
He said that his ministry is giving full freedom to the CII in running the new trust.
"Though we received remittances totaling $23 billion (in 2005) from overseas Indians, investment by overseas Indians has been far short of its potential, given the profile of overseas Indians," Ravi said.
Explaining the objectives of the trust, he said, "It will promote overseas Indian investment into India by giving authentic and real time information. It will also establish a diaspora knowledge network by creating a database of overseas Indians, who would act as knowledge diaspora and whose knowledge resources could be utilized by using the ICT platform."
Among other objectives of the trust are: functioning as a clearing house for all investment-related information; assisting states in India to promote investment opportunities to overseas Indians in the infrastructure and social sectors; and providing a host of advisory services to persons of Indian origin (PIOs) and non-resident Indians (NRIs).
"These would include matters such as consular questions, stay in India, and investment and financial issues," the minister said.
Asked whether the trust would have offices abroad too, MOIA Secretary Nirmal Singh, who was also present, replied in the negative.
"At present, only one centre has been envisaged and it will be set up in Delhi," he said.
He added that the trust will be linked up with all ministries concerned and response time to queries from overseas Indians will be a maximum of 24 hours.
Explaining that the functions of the OIFC would be two-dimensional, MOIA Joint Secretary G Gurucharan, who signed Monday's agreement on behalf of the MOIA - the other signatory was CII director-general SS Mehta - said that there will be free as well as paid services.
"Services like giving information and assisting states as well as potential investors in identifying projects will be free. And there will also be paid for services like handholding investors and helping them chalk out projects," he said.
The new trust will have a two-tier body for management - a governing council and an executive directorate. The governing council will provide broad policy framework for the programmes and activities of the trust in consonance with its objectives. The executive directorate will evolve strategies and implement the programmes and projects.
The MOIA secretary will be the chairman of the governing council while the CII director-general will be the vice-chairman.
In all, there will be nine trustees - three from eminent overseas Indians, two from the government and four from the CII.
The creation of the OIFC has been on the anvil for a long time following complaints about lack of information and demands for such a body from overseas Indians across the world. At the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas 2007, the annual conclave of the Indian diaspora, held in New Delhi in January this year, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had announced that the OIFC would be created soon.
"The new trust will be a reflection of what the Prime Minister had sought in his speech recently at the annual general meeting of the CII - that the industry aid in the development of the country while discharging its social responsibilities properly," the minister said.