M A I N   N E W S

Delegates from 50 nations attend Pravasi Bharatiya Divas
Visa-free travel made easy for diaspora
PM announces merger of PIO & OCI cards
Ashok Tuteja
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 8
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today announced the government’s decision to merge the Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) and the Persons of Indian Origin (PIO) cards into a single facility to further simplify procedures for visa-free travel by the Indian diaspora and participate in business and educational activities in the country of their origin.

Formally inaugurating the ninth Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD) here, he also stated that the government was framing appropriate procedures to give more than 10 million NRIs spread across the globe their legitimate right to participate in the country’s electoral processes. He was confident that granting voting rights to NRIs would “bring a breath of global fresh air to our politics”.

Observing that India’s soft power was an increasingly important element of the country’s expanding global footprint, Manmohan Singh told nearly 1,500 delegates from more than 50 countries that the richness of India’s classical traditions and the colour and vibrancy of contemporary Indian culture were making waves around the world.

The government has decided to establish new cultural centres in the US, Canada, Saudi Arabia, France and Australia. He announced and urged the Indian communities in these countries to support and patronise these centres so that they become effective instruments for projecting the diversity and splendour of composite Indian culture.

Talking about the Indians who emigrate for work, the PM said their welfare was “a matter of special concern for us”. To improve the conditions for migration, said he, India has signed Social Security Agreements with 12 countries and finalised Labour Mobility Partnerships with two others. He said a generic arrangement was also being negotiated with the European Union.

“As a further measure, we have now extended the facility of the Indian Community Welfare Fund to all Indian Missions,” he said. At present, such funds are available in 42 Missions. This growth was vital to fund India’s ambitious social development progress and create employment opportunities for the country’s young population, he added.





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