On 08 Jun 16, PM Narendra Modi inaugurated the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, at Bangalore. The celebration is held regularly to celebrate Indian diaspora, across the world. It is now estimated that there are 30 million Indians staying abroad and the provide foreign remittances of approximately US$ 69 billion, every year. During his address, the PM announced that the date for converting PIO (Person of Indian Origin) to OCI card was extended to 30 June 2017.
What are PIO & OCI Cards?
PIO and OCI cards are special identification schemes for foreign citizens of Indian origin, and provides privileges for travelling, working or residing, in India. The PIO scheme was introduced in 2002 while the OCI scheme was introduced in 2005.
While the PIO scheme is valid for 15 years from the date of issue, the OCI card is valid for a lifetime. Holders of both schemes can avail unlimited visa-free travel to India. The OCI scheme generally provides more benefits than the PIO scheme and PIO holders can apply for conversion of their cards to OCI. However, unlike in the PIO scheme, spouses of OCI holders do not automatically become eligible for the same (OCI). Citizens of Pakistan and Bangladesh are not eligible for OCI cards.
Also, unlike the PIO scheme, India only extends OCI privileges only to those countries, who permit some form of dual citizenship, with India. Though, India itself does not permit its citizens to hold dual citizenship, the OCI was the government’s answer to requests from the Indian diaspora, for dual citizenship. The OCI affords many rights and privileges to holders except holding public office and voting in public elections. The creation of the OCI card required an amendment to the Indian Citizen Act, 1955.
The government of India, through the OCI scheme attempted to address the growing demand for multiple citizenship. However, there are voices amongst India’s OCI-holders, who demand the rights, to vote in public election and to hold public office, as well. In a growing globalized world, governments may be expected to share more rights and privileges, in the future.