Thursday, September 28, 2006


NRIs to get voting right soon: OIA Minister
New Delhi, Sept 29. (UNI): The legislation seeking to confer voting rights on Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) will be taken up for final consideration by the Parliament during its winter session, Overseas Indian Affairs Minister Vayalar Ravi anounced here on Thursday.

Taking to mediapersons after announcing the schedule of the next "Bharatiya Pravasi Divas" in Delhi, he said the concerned legislation had already been considered by a Standing Committee, to which it was referred by the Parliament. The report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee was being discussed by his Ministry with the Law Ministry.

"The final bill will be introduced in the winter session of the Parliament," he said, pointing out that the standing committee had concurred with the provisions of the proposed legislation, which sought to amend the People's Representation Act, 1951 to give voting right in fulfilment of the vociferous demand for the same from the NRIs.

Mr Ravi said as many as 59,600 Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) cards have been issued so far under the scheme, which was officially launched by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at the last year's Bharatiya Pravasi Divas in January this year.

"There is a heavy rush for OCI card," he said, adding that the foreign missions abroad were asked to take quick steps to issue the OCI card whose holders are entitled to many benefits like multiple entry, multipurpose lifelong visa to visit India; exemption from reporting to police authorities for any length of stay in India and parity with NRIs in financial, economic and educational fields, except in the acquisition of agricultural or plantation properties.

Persons registered as OCIs have not been given voting rights, nor have they been allowed to contest elections or hold constitutional positions.

Under the OCI scheme, the eligible person is granted registration certificate in the prescribed format (an OCI booklet of passport size is issued along with a universal visa sticker (U), with lifelong validity and multiple entry, which is pasted on the foreign passport of the applicant.

The application for registration as an OCI can be made online, Mr Ravi said said, noting that if the application was complete and clear, the OCI document could be issued in 15 days.

A special cell of the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs (MOIA) supervises the functioning of the OCI scheme, he said.

Persons of Indian Origins of certain categories who migrated from India before 1936 (when the British drew the Indian boundary) and acquired citizenship of a foreign country other than Pakistan and Bangladesh are eligible for the grant of OCI as long as their home countries allow dual citizenship in some form or the other under their local laws.

Replying to a question, Mr Ravi said the Government might increase the benefits of the insurance scheme meant for the NRIs.



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