New Delhi: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on January 8 announced the merging of the Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) and the People of Indian Origin (PIO) cards to facilitate visa-free travel to India, rights of residency and participation in business and educational activities in the country.
“We have recently reviewed the functioning of these schemes and have decided to merge the OCI and PIO cards into a single facility. We hope to iron out some of the problems that have arisen in the implementation of these schemes,’’ the Prime Minister observed while inaugurating the Ninth Pravasi Bharatiya Diwas.
The Prime Minister also announced the extension of the Indian Community Welfare Fund to all Indian Missions from the present 42.
Dr. Singh said the government would soon give effect to a law that allowed Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) to register themselves as voters. “I have no doubt that their participation (in the elections) will be welcomed by the constituencies, in which you do participate. They will bring a breath of global fresh air to our politics, I sincerely hope,’’ he said.
On the welfare of workers emigrating from India, the Prime Minister pointed out that besides the signing of Social Security Agreements with 12 countries and finalization of Labor Mobility Partnerships with two others, the government was negotiating a generic arrangement with the European Union. In this respect, he commended the initiative taken by Minister of Overseas Indian Affairs Vayalar Ravi.
Dr. Singh said it was increasingly important element in expanding India’s global footprint. In this respect he wanted the overseas Indian community to support and patronize new cultural centers to be opened in the US, Canada, Saudi Arabia, France and Australia.