GaramChai.com >> Features
people abroad holding Overseas Citizenship ofIndia (OCI) cards
are set to be treated on par with NRIs on issues such as adoption
of children from India.
According to government sources, despite the ministry of home
affairs raising objections to the move to grant OCI cardholders
parity with NRIs, the proposal is likely to go through once
it reaches the cabinet for approval.
"Most of the ministries to which a draft cabinet note
on the proposal was circulated have approved it," a top
official told IANS.
According to the eligibility criteria, any foreign national
eligible to become a citizen of India on Jan 26, 1950 or who
was a citizen of India on or at anytime after the date, or
belonged to a territory that became part of India after Aug
15, 1947, and his/her children and grandchildren can apply
for an OCI card.
But the card will be issued only if the country of which the
applicant is a citizen allows dual citizenship in some form
or other under local laws.
According to the new proposal, OCI cardholders will be treated
on par with NRIs in terms of adoption of children in India,
domestic airfares, entry fees to national parks, monuments
and museums and hotel tariffs.
Also, like NRIs, OCI cardholders can go in for up to 100 percent
investment under automatic route - without prior approval
of the government or the Reserve Bank of India - in the domestic
airlines sector. They will also have the right to practice
in India in professions like medicine, dentistry, architecture,
chartered accountancy and engineering.
The ministry of overseas Indian affairs (MOIA) had first sent
the proposal to the committee of secretaries. Following the
committee's approval, the draft cabinet note was circulated
among 77 ministries and most of them have sent in their responses.
According to sources, most ministries, including external
affairs, finance, IT and telecommunication, tourism, environment
and forest, culture and the department of legal affairs, have
approved the proposal.
However, the home ministry is reportedly having a rethink
on giving equal rights to OCI cardholders as they are foreign
nationals and might pose a security threat in strategic areas.
The ministry has sought government control with the right
to review and refuse any such right at any stage.
It also learnt that certain ministries like health and family
welfare as also commerce have suggested that a precondition
be set that the right to practice in India in different professions
only be given to those OCI cardholders who are citizens of
countries which allow reciprocity of the facility with India.
But the sources said the objections were unlikely to stop
the proposal from getting approved by the cabinet as it has
already been cleared by the committee of secretaries and provided
proper checks and balances.
At the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD) 2007, the annual conclave
of the Indian diaspora held in New Delhi in January this year,
Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs Vayalar Ravi had announced
parity to OCI cardholders with NRIs in several areas like
domestic airfares, inter-country adoption of children and
entry fees to national parks and wildlife sanctuaries.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had announced the launch of
OCI card scheme at PBD 2005 held in Mumbai and the first card
was issued at PBD 2006 in Hyderabad.
Benefits enjoyed by an OCI cardholder include multiple entry,
multi-purpose lifelong visas to visit India and exemption
from reporting to police for any length of stay in India.
However, an OCI cardholder does not have voting rights, cannot
contest in elections for Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha, state legislative
assemblies or councils and cannot hold any constitutional
posts such as president, vice president, judge of Supreme
Court or high court.
Till now the Indian government has issued around 145,000 OCI