Friday, January 10, 2003, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

PIOs in 6 countries eligible for dual citizenship
Tribune News Service and PTI

New Delhi, January 9
The long and persistent demand of non-resident Indians (NRIs) and people of Indian origin (PIOs) for the grant of dual citizenship fructified today with Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee announcing that PIOs of certain countries will be eligible for the status shortly.

“The government has decided to accept a high-level committee’s recommendation to permit dual citizenship for PIOs in certain countries. We are now working on the administrative regulations and procedures governing dual citizenship. We will introduce the necessary legislation during Budget Session of Parliament”, Mr Vajpayee said while delivering the inaugural address at the first `Pravasi Bharatiya Divas’ here.

The Secretary in the External Affairs Ministry J.C. Sharma told newsmen that for now, dual citizenship will be granted to PIOs living in the USA, Canada, UK, Australia, New Zealand and Singapore.

To a question, he said the facility will not be applicable to PIOs living in SAARC countries.

With regard to PIOs living in Gulf countries, Sharma said they do not need the facility as they are Indian citizens only and have not been granted citizenship of the respective nations.

On the selection of countries, he said factors like whether a particular nation accepts the concept of dual citizenship and whether a demand has come from that nation were taken into consideration while taking the decision.

The government will also shortly unveil a compulsory insurance scheme for Indian workers migrating to the Gulf region. In addition, for the benefit of children of the Gulf region, a certain percentage of seats will be reserved for them in academic institutions in India.

“Parliament is already considering a Bill to establish a welfare fund for overseas Indian workers. To meet the educational needs of children of workers in the Gulf, we plan to reserve a certain proportion of seats in our academic institutions”, the Prime Minister said.

Today’s announcement by Mr Vajpayee is in consonance with the recommendation made by the committee headed by L.M. Singhvi.

Under the existing Indian legislation — Citizenship Act of 1955 — Indian citizenship is automatically forfeited when an Indian citizen acquires the passport of a foreign country.

The announcement by the Prime Minister today came amidst thundering applause by more than 1,500 members of the Indian diaspora who has congregated here from more than 46 countries to celebrate the recognition of non-resident Indians in nation-building.

Mr Vajpayee, however, struck a note of advice. “The Indian community abroad often reflects the diversity, which is the hallmark of our society here.... it is necessary to strengthen the broader Indian identity in the country of your residence. When you are united as Indians, your voice carries greater weight: both for highlighting issues of your concern in your country and for promoting Indian causes”, he said.

At the same time, the Prime Minister said, Indians who have chosen to settle in foreign lands should be loyal to their country of adoption. “The biggest challenge facing every immigrant community is to integrate harmoniously into the political, economic and social life of the host society, while preserving and cherishing its civilisational heritage”, he added.

Reiterating the government’s commitment to engage closely with the communities of Indian origin, Mr Vajpayee said an advisory committee was being set up by the Centre which would meet periodically to suggest new initiatives to the Minister of External Affairs.

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