What Indians in Australia expect from the Modi Govt

 

 
 
 

The new government should be proactive in considering the interests and welfare of the Indian community down under.

It is not a hyperbole to say that a new era has dawned in India with the swearing-in of the Modi Government on Monday, 26 May, 2014.

A decisive, “can do” leader, Sri Narendra Modi, is the Prime Minister. Indians, not just in India but around the world, are confident that things will change for the better and the Indian economy will grow rapidly.

People have expectations from the new government. While people have a wide variety of expectations, which they want the Modi Govt to deliver, there are some common themes in their expectations. Based on my interactions with many Indians in Australia, and based on my own thinking, there are a few things that people expect the new government to consider.

Prime Minister’s visit to Australia: There has not been any state visit by an Indian PM to Australia after the late Shri Rajiv Gandhi’s visit in 1980s. PM Modi should accept the invitation from Australia to schedule a state visit to Australia this year itself. Several Australian PMs have already visited India, but a reciprocal visit by an Indian PM is yet to happen. There should be time for the PM to interact with the community in at least one, but preferably two, major cities. The G20 summit is scheduled to happen in Brisbane on November 15 and 16, 2014. This will be a perfect opportunity for the Indian PM’s long overdue official visit to Australia too.

Genuine dual citizenship: This has been discussed and debated for long. There is an almost universal demand that overseas Indians be given a right to hold genuine dual citizenship with voting and property rights, if the country of their citizenship has no issue with this and if there are no security issues with granting dual citizenship to any particular overseas Indian. After all, Australia, USA, UK, NZ and many other developed as well as developing countries already offer this facility.

Visa on arrival for Australian citizens: Australian citizens, like many others including New Zealanders, should get the same visa-free arrival facilities in India. If this is not the case at present, it should be implemented without further delay.

Black money in overseas banks: Genuine, proactive and effective steps should be taken to tackle this menace and bring the money back to India within 12 months. No favour should be given to anyone irrespective of who they are or what connections they have. The decision to constitute a Special Investigation Team (SIT) for this purpose is good.

Effective anti-corruption body: A group of 10-15 people from civil society including judges, eminent jurists and overseas Indians (if possible) should be asked to review the Lok Pal Act, passed by the Lok Sabha earlier in the year, and suggest steps to rectify weakness to make it an effective corruption fighting body. This should be completed in the next 12 months.

The PM’s global Overseas Indians Advisory body: The PM should revamp his Global Advisory Body, constituted by the previous PM. People in it should be those who have significant presence and influence in their countries. The habit of Indian diplomats recommending non-descript and non-influential people for this body should eliminated.

Country specific Overseas Indian Advisory body: Countries with significant overseas Indian population (Australia is certainly one such country) should have an advisory body of not more than 10 people, which can be used for consultations and other advisory purposes, not only by the local GOI authorities/agencies, but also the relevant authorities/agencies in India.

Annual dialogue between Indian and Australian leaders: PMs, Foreign Affairs Ministers and Defence Ministers should hold annual meeting/dialogue, with venues for such meeting/dialogue alternating between India and Australia.

Free Trade Agreement (FTA): The pace of the discussions and negotiations should be accelerated so that FTA can be concluded by the end of 2015.

Bilateral Nuclear Trade negotiations: The pace of the discussions and negotiations should be accelerated with the goal to conclude it by the 30 June, 2015.

Bilateral and multi-lateral defence exercises between India and Australia: India and Australia should work actively to enhance their defence & strategic relations bilaterally and multilaterally in the pattern agreed prior to the 2007 Rudd Govt in Australia.

Hindi teachings in Australian Universities: To increase India’s soft power and increase the numbers of India-literate Australians, India should consider funding such teaching courses in some select Universities in Australia.

Facilitations of Australian Universities and TAFE to have campuses in India: Many Australian institutions are ranked quite highly in various world Universities ranking systems. Collaborations in this field should be actively facilitated and encouraged, following a pragmatic and win-win module.

Indian Consulate in Brisbane: Queensland is an important state for Indian investment. Indian business houses like the Adani group have an important and a significant presence in this state. It is important to have an Indian Consulate in Brisbane.

India House or Indian Cultural Centre in major capital cities: The Indian community has grown significantly in Australia. It is increasingly felt that such centres are required, at least in Sydney and Melbourne. While some funding will be raised locally, a significant part of the funds should come from Indian Govt. Govt of India (GOI) Funds, if any, allocated for something of this nature to be established in the Indian Consulate premises in Sydney CBD should be reviewed and re-allocated for a centre of this nature in areas like Parramatta or Blacktown, where the Indian community has a substantial presence. Sydney CBD is not a practical or appropriate site for an Indian Cultural Centre.

Overseas Indians’ property in India: Many overseas Indians are seeing that their properties are illegally occupied and face threats to their safety when they visit India. Court cases go on for extended periods of time. IPC should be amended to tackle this menace.

Interactions between GOI agencies and Indian Australian community: It is often felt that GOI authorities in Australia do not interact with people sufficiently, thus leading to a communication gap. It is a common experience that there is a significant gap between what we expect and what is delivered. Steps should be implemented to improve the situation.

Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs visit to Australia: With approx. 500,000 people of Indian heritage in Australia, a biennial visit of Minister of Overseas Indian Affairs (The Hon Sushma Swaraj) or her deputy, The Hon Gen (Retd) V K Singh, should be included in the official GOI travel calendar. This will help facilitate interactions with the community and facilitate Overseas Indians’ investment in India.

Streamlined grievance redressal mechanism for Overseas Indians: Overseas Indian Affairs ministry has often not been very helpful and help has often not come in a timely fashion due to excessive bureaucratic influences. This should be reviewed and streamlined.

Exchanges between Academicians and civil Society leaders: We need regular bilateral exchange visits of academics, journalists, leaders and civil society leaders. This will help improve relations between the two countries. The scope and numbers should be increased.

This is our wish list, which we believe is doable, not difficult and will provide multiple benefits to various stake-holders, including India.

Dr Yadu Singh/Sydney/13th June, 2014

http://www.twitter.com/dryadusingh

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This was originally published in Indian Sun News magazine, Sydney on 10th June, 2014.  http://www.theindiansun.com.au/top-story/indians-australia-expect-modi-govt/

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“OCI card holders should not need a Visa for India”:Says Dr Sujit Pandit and I agree.

Prof Sujit Pandit has sent me an email, suggesting that Indians living overseas should demand a rule change in India. This is about the OCI cards. An OCI card holder should not need to have a separate Visa for India.

Here is his email. The word USA should be substituted with Australia, NZ, UK or relevant countries.

Let us send this demand to our High Commissions, Consulates, Minister Mr SM Krishna [MEA], Minister Mr Shashi Tharoor [MEA] and Minister Mr Vayalar Ravi [NRI affairs].

Dr Yadu Singh/Sydney/21st Sept 2009

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Dr Pandit’s email……

Sujit Pandit to me 

Our goal is to make travel to India less stressful and a matter of joy. The current OCI (Overseas Citizen of India)/PIO (Person of Indian Origin)  rules are irrational and confusing that often cause hardship to the travelers.

The bureaucrats and politicians do not like to change any rules unless there is overwhelming pressure from the public.  So, if you would like to change the ambiguous OCI/PIO rules please write to the Indian ambassador to the USA, the Consular General of India, the Prime Minister of India, the Minister of External affairs, The Home Minister and other civil servants and politicians in India.   You may also write to the various Indian media and the Indian action, social and political groups.  Please ask your friends to do the same.
If you want to write only a short paragraph then write the following or something like this:

‘When an individual has a US Passport and an OCI card, production of a Visa should not be insisted upon, because the evidence of a valid visa is implicit in the OCI card, which may be deemed to be a certification higher than the Visa itself.’
If you want to send a more elaborate explanation then send them my story:
 From:
Sujit Pandit M.D.
2680 Lowell Road
Ann Arbor MI 48103

OCI Card: Professor Sujit K Pandit has some suggestions……..

I wrote to Prof Pandit today and he emailed the following matter.

His email goes like……..
Thank you for doing a useful service to the community.

I would like you to read my update too:

Updated Sept 17, 2009

OCI RULES CAN BE CHANGED

Following my e-mail message (a copy is attached below) about my aggravation at the Kolkata airport over the OCI card, I have received about 300 responses. I am absolutely overwhelmed and thankful to all those who have written.  I had no idea how deeply the Indians all over the world feel about this issue.  Most people were thankful to me for sharing my story so they can learn from my bad experience.  The majority, about 90% of the responders was outraged at the lack of common sense and common courtesy of the immigration officials at the Kolkata airport. More than a dozen people have narrated their own horror stories, very similar and even worse than mine at airports in India when they arrived with an OCI card only, these are really heart wrenching stories involving small children and the whole family members undergoing incredible hardships.  Others were alerted at the last moment by the airlines officials at the departing airport in the USA about the need to carry the visa sticker that may be in their old passport.  Some were surprised that I had the problem because they have gone to India with just the OCI card and they were allowed to enter India without having to show their visa.  Some assumed that the problem may be at the Kolkata airport and probably the corruption is rampant there. They suggested that the officers there might be looking for a bribe. Many were still confused about the rules of the OCI and have asked me for advice.  Many others narrated the appalling treatment they have received at the various Indian consular offices.

About 10% of the responders said I got what I deserved at the Kolkata airport for not reading rules of the OCI card and for not following the rules strictly.  They thought the officers were just doing their duties.

Some especially from England and Canada told me that they have PIO (Person of Indian Origin) cards and had never had to show their visa at the Indian airports.  And the OCI is supposed to be the upgraded version of the PIO card.  Go figure. 

One person has written that for a family of five (three children) under the current OCI rules he has to carry fifteen travel documents when going to India (five old passports,  five current passports and five OCI cards)

I am thankful to all who have taken the time to write to me. 

I know it was my mistake for not taking my old passport with the visa sticker with me and I will never make the same mistake again; the main purpose of my mail was to warn my friends not to make the same mistake that I made. 

But, then my friend Dr. Dinesh Patel from Boston pointed out to me that the rules CAN be changed and the bad/confusing rules SHOULD be changed. I think that is a great point.  Rather than just accepting and following the bad rules and thus perpetuating them, we should try to change the bad rules. In addition because of the confusing name of the OCI and the false buzz about the “Dual Citizenship” many people make the same mistake as I did. When so many people make the same mistake in spite of the rules, then may be the system needs to be fixed.  Confusing rules of OCI needs to be changed. The bad rules can only be changed if there is enough pressure from the public to the politicians and the civil servants. .

I believe, just like the persons holding a PIO card the OCI card holders should also be allowed to enter India without having to bring the old visa sticker every time.  The fact is, whenever any one is granted his/her OCI card, he/she is thoroughly vetted and only then the OCI card is issued along with a life long visa sticker.  Both go hand in hand.  You cannot get an OCI card without a life long visa.  I know that in spite of the puzzling name (Overseas CITIZEN of India) the OCI card is not a passport, right now we can not have both American (or Canadian or UK) passports as well an Indian passport But, the OCI card can be and should be the visa substitute. As far as the entry requirement to India the OCI card could act like the US Green card.  Once you have it there will be no need to carry a separate visa ever.

When an individual has a US Passport and an OCI card, production of a visa should not be insisted upon, because, the  evidence of a valid visa is implicit in the OCI card, which may be deemed to be a certification higher than the visa itself.

The other problem is the utter lack of common courtesy and competence at the various Indian Consular Offices. I have received more than 15 mails that detail their dreadful experiences at various Indian Consular Offices.  These Consular offices are amateurish and incompetent.  I myself had a horrible time trying to get my OCI card in Chicago.  When I complained, there was no response. I can not even think about going back there to get my visa sticker transferred from my old passport to my new one, and what about when I get yet another new passport?  This is a disgrace that the officials at the Consular offices are not trained to be courteous to their customers like real professionals.

We need to bring pressure on the politicians and civil servants to simplify the procedure and let the OCI card be the visa substitute. Please send this mail to others once again and may be some one knows an important person who will understand the problem and solve it. That will make travel to India a joy and not stressful. We also need to make the Indian Consular offices more “Professional”. 

 
I am attaching a copy of my original e-mail:
MY DUAL CITIZENSHIP WOES: MY RECENT EXPERIENCE WITH THE IMMIGRATION DEPARTMENT AT THE KOLKATA AIRPORT AND THE LESSONS I LEARNT

My advice to all my friends who hold an OCI (Overseas Citizen of India) Card and those who aspire to get one.

I am an American citizen.  I also carry an OCI card (Overseas Citizen of India) since 2007. 

On Saturday, June 20, 2009, I arrived at the Kolkata Netaji Subhas Airport from Detroit via Singapore, by Singapore Airlines (SQ 516) at 10:30 P.M.

I presented myself to an Immigration Officer  (Mr. Biswas) for immigration clearance.  I gave him my American passport and my OCI card.  He demanded to see my visa from the Indian consular office.  Unfortunately, that visa was attached to my old passport and I did not bring it with me.

I explained to him that I am sorry I forgot to bring my old passport but since I do possess a valid OCI Card that would automatically mean that I do also possess a permanent (life long) visa for India and there are proofs that I have traveled multiple times to India after I had received my OCI card. 

 Mr. Biswas detained me for two hours inside the airport   and then he told me that he is going to allow me to stay in India for 72 hours and asked me to report to the Foreign Relations Regional Officer (FRRO) in the city within 72 hours.  He kept my passport.  During all that time I had no opportunity either to approach his OC (Officer in Charge) although I asked for it, or to contact my relatives who came to the airport to receive me and were waiting outside and had no idea why I was being held back or if I have even arrived.

Forgetting to bring my old passport was my own fault but I ‘forgot’ to bring it partly because I knew I have my OCI Card with me and I thought, that means something, I really believed that I am a citizen of India too.  Why would a citizen also need a visa to enter his own country?   I thought I have a dual citizenship for both the USA and India. Other wise, what is the difference between an ordinary foreigner and the OCI Card holder?

Next day was a Sunday, I called a friend in Ann Arbor who went into my house, got my old passport and sent me the scanned copy of my old passport and a copy of my permanent visa by e-mail. 

So, on Monday I went to see Mr. Bibhas Talukdar, the FRRO.  He hardly looked at the documents (the scanned visa) that I had with me he simply asked me to get my old passport by courier mail within another seven days.  He appeared gleeful telling me that it is only out of  “pity” that he is allowing me to stay in India for seven more days.  He was totally unimpressed by either my status as a Professor Emeritus of the University of Michigan or my age (70+)

I called my friend in Ann Arbor again who then sent my old passport by FedEx.  Three days later the passport arrived.  Since I had to leave Kolkata for prescheduled visit to Bangalore, my niece took it to Mr. Talukdar. But due to lack of communication between the FRRO office and the airport immigration department my passport had not arrived at the city office even after 9 days.  My niece had to go to the FRRO’s office three times once waiting until 6 P.M. still they did not have my passport.  They only promised: “it will come soon”.  At last, 12 days after my arrival, my niece got my passport.
From this painful and anxiety provoking experience I have learned a few valuable lessons:

1.    The loud talk about “Dual Citizenship” for Indian Americans is just a political hoax.

2.    The OCI card just does not have any value.  It is just a piece of expensive junk. You still need a visa every time you travel to India whether or not you possess an OCI card.  Only difference is that for the high price of getting an OCI card you will get a “life long ” visa.  A 10-year visa is much cheaper.
 
3.    When coming to India always consider yourself a foreigner and bring your visa with you, there will be no exceptions. Your OCI card is not a visa substitute.

4.     In fact, you will probably be treated worse than an ordinary foreigner arriving without a valid visa.  Because a foreigner especially a white Caucasian will at least be treated with courtesy and probably offered a temporary visa if there is no reason to deny it, but not you.

5.    Since the word “CITIZEN” in the OCI card is the root cause of confusion, the name should be changed.

 

Please feel free to forward this mail to any of your friends who may benefit from my experience.  Especially feel free to forward this to any influential politician or civil servant in India that you may know.

Sujit K. Pandit M.D.
Professor Emeritus
Department of Anesthesiology
University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI
48109, USA

OCI Card: A story of an Emeritus Professor of Medicine from USA!

 This email was sent to me by Rajesh Pandey who is a great guy from our community. He is based in Sydney. The behaviour of the Indian officials with this Professor from USA made me sad. It also raised concerns/questions about OCI cards. I hope we can hear from the Indian Consulate, Sydney about the OCI card and its usefulness.

I reproduce the content of the email.

This email reads as……..
Indian Immigration!
 
Horror Of Dual Citizenship With India
 
   
 
MY DUAL CITIZENSHIP WOES:
MY RECENT EXPERIENCE WITH THE IMMIGRATION DEPARTMENT
AT THE KOLKATA AIRPORT AND THE LESSONS I LEARNT
 

My advice to all my friends who hold an OCI (Overseas Citizen of India) Card and those who aspire to get one.
 
I am an American citizen.  I also carry an OCI card (Overseas Citizen of India) since 2007. 
On Saturday, June 20, 2009 , I arrived at the Kolkata Netaji Subhas Airport from Detroit via Singapore , by Singapore Airlines (SQ 516) at 10:30 P.M.
 
I presented myself to an Immigration Officer  ( Mr. Biswas ) for immigration clearance.  I gave him my American passport and my OCI card.  He demanded to see my visa from the Indian consular office.  Unfortunately, that visa was attached to my old passport and I did not bring it with me.
I explained to him that I am sorry I forgot to bring my old passport but since I do possess a valid OCI Card that would automatically mean that I do also possess a permanent (life long) visa for India and there are proofs that I have traveled multiple times to India after I had received my OCI card. 
 
Mr. Biswas detained me for two hours inside the airport   and then he told me that he is going to allow me to stay in India for 72 hours and asked me to report to the Foreign Relations Regional Officer (FRRO) in the city within 72 hours.  He kept my passport.  During all that time I had no opportunity either to approach his OC (Officer in Charge) although I asked for it, or to contact my relatives who came to the airport to receive me and were waiting outside and had no idea why I was being held back or if I have even arrived.
 
Forgetting to bring my old passport was my own fault but I ‘forgot’ to bring it partly because I knew I have my OCI Card with me and I thought, that means something, I really believed that I am a citizen of India too.  Why would a citizen also need a visa to enter his own country?   I thought I have a dual citizenship for both the USA and India . Other wise, what is the difference between an ordinary foreigner and the OCI Card holder?
Next day was a Sunday, I called a friend in Ann Arbor who went into my house, got my old passport and sent me the scanned copy of my old passport and a copy of my permanent visa by e-mail. 
 
So, on Monday I went to see Mr. Bibhas Talukdar , the FRRO.  He hardly looked at the documents (the scanned visa) that I had with me he simply asked me to get my old passport by courier mail within another seven days.  He appeared gleeful telling me that it is only out of  “pity” that he is allowing me to stay in India for seven more days.  He was totally unimpressed by either my status as a Professor Emeritus of the University of Michigan or my age (70+)
 
I called my friend in Ann Arbor again who then sent my old passport by FedEx.  Three days later the passport arrived.  Since I had to leave Kolkata for prescheduled visit to Bangalore , my niece took it to Mr. Talukdar . But due to lack of communication between the FRRO office and the airport immigration department my passport had not arrived at the city office even after 9 days.  My niece had to go to the FRRO’s office three times once waiting until 6 P.M. still they did not have my passport.  They only promised: “it will come soon”. At last,  12 days after my arrival, my niece got my passport.
 
From this painful and anxiety provoking experience I have learned a few valuable lessons:
 
1.    The loud talk about “Dual Citizenship” for Indian Americans is just a political hoax.
 
2.    The OCI card just does not have any value.  It is just a piece of expensive junk. You still need a visa every time you travel to India whether or not you possess an OCI card.  Only difference is that for the high price of getting an OCI card you will get a “life long ” visa.  A 10-year visa is much cheaper.
 
3.    When coming to India always consider yourself a foreigner and bring your visa with you, there will be no exceptions. Your OCI card is not a visa substitute.
 
4.     In fact, you will probably be treated worse than an ordinary foreigner arriving without a valid visa.  Because a foreigner especially a white Caucasian will at least be treated with courtesy and probably offered a temporary visa if there is no reason to deny it, but not you.
 
Please feel free to forward this mail to any of your friends who may befit from my experience.  Especially feel free to forward this to any influential politician or civil servant in India that you may know.
 
Sujit K. Pandit M.D.,Professor Emeritus, Department of Anesthesiology, University of Michigan

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I have sent a copy of this email to Indian Consulate, Sydney. They may consider about enlightening Indian Australians re the value of the OCI cards. There are OCI card holders in Australia and they would be interested in this matter.

Dr Yadu Singh/Sydney/11th Sept, 2009