Deepening bonds with Diaspora

by Apr 12, 2024Diaspora0 comments

The government is considering to expand relaxation in OCI card norms


Relaxed OCI norms announced recently for Mauritius and Suriname may be extended to other countries with large overseas Indian populations, such as Fiji.

Last year, the Government of India had provided a relaxation in extending OCI card privileges to overseas Indians in Suriname, the South American country. India is considering expanding the scheme to other countries, including Fiji, according to a recent report in the Mint newspaper.

In 2023, during a visit to Suriname, Indian President Droupadi Murmu had announced that India would relax the eligibility criteria for descendants of Indian migrants in Suriname. She had announced that India has decided to extend the eligibility criteria for Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) cards up from the fourth to the sixth generation of the original Indian immigrants who had arrived in Suriname from Indian territories.

She had made this announcement after witnessing a cultural festival in capital Paramaribo on the occasion of the commemoration of 150 years of the arrival of Indians in Suriname.

She said that the OCI card can be seen as an important link in their 150 year old relationship with India. The President added that at a time when Suriname is celebrating the legacy of its ancestors and its links with India, India stands with Suriname in solidarity and reverence.

It may be noted that the first ship — Lalla Rookh — carrying 452 Indian labourers, had arrived in Suriname’s capital Paramaribo on June 5, 1873. Most of the labourers hailed from eastern Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.

The move was seen as an effort to deepen India’s diaspora links. Now, New Delhi is considering expanding the scheme to other countries with large overseas Indian populations, such as Fiji.

Importantly, last month in her visit to Mauritius , President Murmu had also extended a goodwill gesture by approving a special provision that makes 7th-generation Indian-origin Mauritians eligible for the Overseas Citizen ofIndia (OCI) Card. She had announced this initiative during a State Banquet hosted by Mauritian Prime Minister Pravind Kumar Jugnauth.

This move aimed at reconnecting younger Mauritians of Indian origin with the land of their ancestors and reflected India’s deep respect for shared cultural values.

In her address, President Murmu had also highlighted the recent bilateral initiatives, including the launch of UPI and RuPay Card settlement systems, the inauguration of new infrastructure projects, and plans for a jointly developed satellite and the supply of environment-friendly electric buses.

Incidentally, the Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) card confers a number of benefits. Card holders receive a multiple-entry, multi-purpose, lifelong visa to enter India and are not required to register with police for their stay in the country. In addition, they receive parity with Indian nationals and non-resident Indians on specific matters. However, an OCI card does not confer the right to vote or stand for elected office and is not a form of dual citizenship. The scheme was introduced in 2005.

It is to be also noted that Section 7D of the law says that Overseas Citizen of India cards can be cancelled if they are obtained by fraud, or if the cardholder showed disaffection to the Constitution, assisted an enemy during war, faced imprisonment or it was necessary to do so in the interests of sovereignty, integrity and security of India.

According to the home ministry, over 3.5 million OCI cards had been issued as of March 2020. The vast majority were issued to foreign nationals in the United States, United Kingdom, Australia and Canada. The MEA recorded that this number had crossed 4 million as of early 2022.

The OCI card scheme has been a key element of the Indian government’s effort to deepen its relationship with its diaspora. This has also taken on importance in countries that have large populations of individuals descended from Indian migrants.

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