NRIs will get right to vote; pension fund for overseas workers

The Hindu

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Manmohan wants them to contribute "much more" to building a modern India

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Sunday called upon the Indian communities living abroad to play a more active role and contribute “much more” to the building of a modern India and promised significant steps to facilitate, encourage and promote their engagement with the country of their origin.


Inaugurating the 10th Pravasi Bharatiya Divas here, Dr. Singh also announced the right of franchise to the non-resident Indians who are registered under the Representation of the People Act, 1950. A new pension and life insurance fund for overseas Indian workers, to enable them to voluntarily save for their return and resettlement, has also been introduced.


Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar is the chief guest at the three-day festival, which began on Saturday. About 1,900 NRIs and Persons of Indian Origin (POIs) are taking part in the flagship event, which will focus on India’s success in diverse fields and invited them to strengthen their bonds with their ancestral land.


The formal inauguration of the annual event at B.M. Birla Auditorium here on Sunday, a day after brainstorming seminars were organised on a variety of subjects, was attended by a battery of distinguished persons, industrial magnates, young entrepreneurs and government functionaries.


Among others, Union Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs Vayalar Ravi, acting Rajasthan Governor Shivraj Patil and Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot attended the inaugural session. Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Union Road Transport and Highways Minister C.P. Joshi and Lok Sabha MP Shashi Tharoor addressed the subsequent sessions.


Dr. Singh said that while the notifications had been issued to enable Indian residents abroad to participate in the country’s election processes, a Bill had been introduced in Parliament to merge and streamline the PIO and Overseas Citizen of India schemes by amending the Citizenship Act. This would provide for an overseas Indian card that would be given to foreign spouses of the holders as well.


The new pension and life insurance scheme, fulfilling a long-pending demand, would enable the overseas Indians to save for their old age after returning to the country, said the Prime Minister. It would also provide a low-cost life insurance cover against natural death.


Listing the steps taken for safety and security of the Indians living abroad, particularly in the regions of instability, Dr. Singh said the government was “acutely conscious” of the security needs of over six million Indians staying in the Gulf and West Asia. “We have conveyed to [these] countries that we have a stake in the peace and stability of this region. We expect that they would appropriately look after the interest of Indian communities.”


He said the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs had prepared an action plan to implement the recommendations of an inter-ministerial committee on issues relating to repatriation, relief and rehabilitation of Indian nationals affected by the recent developments in the West Asian region.

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