Non-resident Indian (NRI) students studying in India will soon be given equal rights, including in fees and opportunities, as other students, visiting Overseas Indian Affairs Minister Vayalar Ravi said in Vienna on Friday.
"The Indian government is concerned about the high fees that educational institutions are charging NRI students," Ravi told representatives of Indian communities in Vienna.
Pointing out that the Supreme Court of India had directed private educational institutions to reserve 15 per cent seats for NRI students and permitted them to decide the fees to be charged from them, Ravi said: "The state governments feel that NRIs can afford it. But the government will hold discussions with the managements of educational institutions and persuade them to be more realistic towards NRIs."
"Our efforts towards establishing a university for PIOS (Persons of Indian Origin) is going on a fast track. There is some bureaucratic delay. It will soon become a reality," said Ravi in Vienna, on a two-day visit.
On a six-day European tour to three countries, he urged the 20,000-strong Indian community in Vienna to support their parent country's developmental programmes.
"India has come a long way from the time when we depended on other nations for our food supply. It is now in a position where we can refuse external assistance while facing a crisis," he said, referring to the government's decision to reject help from foreign countries when the 2004 tsunami hit the country's southern coasts.
Maintaining that it was Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's vision as a finance minister and as the prime minister that led the country to economic development, he said the government would not forget the support from the Indian diaspora around the world. "It was the NRI remittance that helped our country overcome the worst crisis. So we should always help each other."
"Our trade with European countries needs to be further improved and the Indians in Vienna can play a crucial role in it," he added.
Reacting to a complaint that the staff in the Indian embassy had been 'rude' to the people there, Ravi said his ministry would ensure that the interests of Indians abroad would be taken care of.
"This ministry is created to look after you and to strengthen the bond with your motherland. We are exploring all ways to strengthen the partnership between the two," Ravi said.
However, he noted some of the Indian embassies abroad were facing acute staff shortage. "India is becoming a major tourist destination. Sometimes staff in the embassies are not be able to handle the bulk of visa applications and other requests."
"Besides, the visa procedures in Vienna are not yet computerised. That's a grave handicap."
He said he would take up the matter with the external affairs ministry. Ravi also asked the community representatives to work in coordination in their country of residence. "I feel that the Indian organisations in Vienna should work under one umbrella organisation. It can coordinate with the embassy in a better way."
There are seven registered Indian organisations in Austria. Ravi, who arrived in Vienna on Friday, will attend the Onam celebrations organised by the Vienna Malayalee Association on Saturday. He will later visit Germany and Switzerland.