|Diaspora Indians with foreign citizenship and OCI/PIO card holders are being turned away by Reserve bank of India from depositing their demonetized currencies, although the government of India had announced that it had extended the date for NRIs to deposit their currencies till June 30th, 2017. However, Diaspora Indians with foreign citizenship after standing outside the gate for several hours and when they reach the gate, they have been told that only NRIs with Indian passport can go inside. “It is a major issue to be corrected,” said Dr. Thomas Abraham, in an exclusive interview with this writer. “GOPIO has now taken up this issue and has sent this appeal to Hon. Prime Minister Modi and to other officials at the Indian government.
Global Organization of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO) has started a Peition Online campaign appealing Prime Minister of India to allow OCI/PIO card holders as well as Diaspora Indians with Foreign Citizenship to deposit or exchange their demonetized Indian currencies at the Reserve Bank of India branches in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai and Nagpur. Diaspora Indians standing in the line for hours in front of RBI offices are turned away by security guards when they reach the gate.
“Indians who left India to earn their living should not be deprived of their hard earned money because they were not in India to deposit the demonetized notes when banks were accepting the notes,” Dr. Abraham, who has been instrumental in creating GOPIO and numerous other Indian American organizations, and is considered a leading voice representing the millions of Diaspora Indians around the world, said.
“This is a major issue for the Diaspora Indians and it can be easily resolved, there is no need for the Government to separate out NRIs from PIOs, we are all (overseas Indians) Diaspora Indians,” said GOPIO International President Niraj Baxi.
With an estimate of holding an average of Rs. 5,000 per person, the 30 million Diaspora Indians and NRIs have about Rs. 15,000 crores which is about 1% of the demonetized currencies. Although Govt. of India in a notification extended the date for the exchange to June 30th at the Reserve Bank of India branches, Diaspora Indians including those holding OCI/PIO card holders are not allowed to deposit their demonetized currencies.
According to the Govt. of India’s new rules, NRIs/PIOs bringing demonetized notes have to declare and certify by an income tax official at the port of entry airport.
“The Govt. of India (GOI) has made such rules, but the problem is that this information has not been published and NRIs/PIOs arriving in India are not informed to get such document on the amount of demonetized currency one is bringing which is signed from an income tax official and secondly even if one knows about this rule, no one at the airport knows where such income tax person is sitting,” said Dr. Thomas Abraham, Chairman of GOPIO International.
“Indians who left India to earn their living should not be deprived of their hard earned money because they were not in India to deposit the demonetized notes when banks were accepting the notes,” continued Dr. Abraham.
In an appeal to the Prime Minister of India, GOPIO wrote that it supported demonetization effort, however, Diaspora Indians are faced with some issues pertaining to demonetization which need to be corrected as follows:
Diaspora Indians with Foreign Citizenship, and PIO and OCI card holders be given the same opportunity for depositing old and obsolete currency notes as given to NRIs (Indian Passport holders), allowing them to deposit up to Rs. 250,000 of Indian currency in the Reserve Bank of India instead of notified amount of Rs. 25,000;
Some of the NRIs, and PIO and OCI card holders have old currency notes safely kept in their residences in India for reasons such as education of their children in India, supporting old age parents, helping family members, etc., so allow RBI and Banks having NRO accounts to accept the old currency notes up to Rs. 2,50,000.
As it may not be practical on account of job situation or other reasons, Diaspora Indians with Foreign Citizenship, and PIO and OCI card holders are not able to visit India and hence be permitted to deposit in their bank account in India through an authorized agent, the amount certified by the foreign branches of State Bank of India or Indian Missions in the country of their residence or in RBI / NRO accounts with various banks in India.
Finally, since all Diaspora Indians with Foreign Citizenship, PIO and OCI card holders may not be able to visit India prior to June 30, 2017, they should be allowed to deposit old currency notes at either the Reserve Bank of India/NRO Accounts maintained with various banks in India up to December 31, 2017.
“Although demonetization intentions are good, the people who have been hurt finally are the sincere and hardworking Diaspora Indians who do not have any black money but GOI has restricted them to deposit their old notes,” Dr. Abraham added.
It is a major issue to be corrected and GOPIO has started a campaign among the NRIs/PIOs to sign up a petition to Prime Minister Modi through a link in its website, www.gopio.net. Hundreds of Diaspora Indians have already signed this petition.
“GOPIO had sent out an appeal to Prime Minister Modi on this issue early last week. However, we have not heard from his office. The problem is that a lot of our Diaspora Indians are waiting in India to deposit their demonetized currencies before they return back to their countries they live,” stated Dr. Abraham.
GOPIO has now launched a signature campaign so that Diaspora Indians holding foreign passport are treated equally as NRIs holding Indian passport. We are getting tremendous response from people. Please see a compilation of these responses in the attached pdf file. Please file a story in your publications since it is a major issue for the Diaspora Indians as they are not allowed to deposit their demonetized currencies.
Dr. Abraham has urged the Indian Diaspora on behalf of the GOPIO International Executive Council, to sign up this petition and forward it to family members and friends (including in India) and request them to sign up and support this campaign. “Our goal is to reach 10000 signatures in one week and we need your help and support,” the veteran community leader, said.
The petition and more information on the campaign is here: https://www.change.org/p/prime-minister-of-india-allow-diaspora-indians-and-pio-oci-card-holders-to-deposit-or-exchange-demonetizednotes?recruiter=669342563&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=share_email_responsive
· Himanshu Jain, Bethlehem, PA, USA: “My wife and I visited R.B.I., New Delhi on January 10, 2017, waited in line at the gate of the premises for about an hour, only to be told rudely by the security guards that we would not be allowed to come in because we did not have Indian passport (we hold US passports and OCI cards). We could not even speak to an authorized representative of the bank. It was a humiliating, wasteful experience. We felt grossly misled and cheated with information that kept changing frequently and depended on which authority we talked to. It has left us disgusted, confused and with no further direction about what to do with our legitimate, hard earned Indian currency. We very much appreciate GOPIO’s efforts in finding a reasonable solution to this artificially created problem.”
· Arjun Modi, Venice, CA, USA: “I am signing this because I am a hard working OCI holder, who has paid all required taxes, on time, and to Indian as well as United States government. I should be given a chance to deposit my Rs. 500, and Rs. 1,000 notes as they are hard earned, and LEGAL “WHITE” money. My OCI card states in clear writing that OCI card holders have “Parity with NRIs (Non-Resident Indians) in financial, economic and educational fields EXCEPT in relation to acquisition of agricultural and plantation properties”. This is a financial/economical, so why am I not being given parity with NRIs in this matter!?
Also, earlier, Prime Minister Hon. Shri Narendra Modiji had stated that everyone will be given a chance to deposit their hard-earned legal money after the 30th December, 2016 deadline. It is my hope that this will be considered seriously, and that I, along with my fellow OCI/PIO persons, will be given an equal chance to contribute to supporting demonetization and development of OUR INDIA. No OCI/ PIO discrimination.”
· Chandra Has Roy, Crumlin, United Kingdom: “I had saved money in my residence which was not accessible to me as I was in UK. It seems unfair that I cannot use my own white money due to the changes during my absence.”
· Mr. Singh, Oyster Bay, NY, USA: “I’m signing this this because I should deserve what I was promised by Government of India on my OCI card, equal treatment as NRIs in regards to all financial, & economical matters. Government of India is breaking its legal promise! Very disappointing!”
· Nirvana Dutt, Edgware, United Kingdom: “It is preposterous to penalize genuine NRIs who have been greatly inconvenienced by this retrospective order & steps should be taken to rectify this. For example & as smacking of Indian incompetence, there is no sign at the airport to give arriving NRIs any guidance as to what procedures to follow when carrying Indian currency which has been suddenly taken out of circulation.”
· Roopa Lutzenberger, Croydon, United Kingdom: “I have made every effort to contact RBI, three emails given by them including on circular bounced. I enquired everywhere. Now I travelled to Mumbai to try my luck all the way from Hyd. Disheartened to see it doesn’t work. Tweeted PM, Sushma Swaraj, Finance Ministry, Jaitley n more but no response. My family is tired on hearing about SBNs from me all during this trip which was supposed to be an enjoyable holiday. All we ask is fair deal. Our OCI booklet says equal financial representation which we feel deprived now of. Please act. Thank you.”
· Roop Goyal, Redlands, CA, USA: “There is no reason to treat OCI or foreigners with demonetized Indian currencies different from NRIs. The idea is that they were not in India when the demonetization occurred. In fact, June 2017 deadline is short for people staying outside India.”
· Kumar Gupta, Australia: “On one hand, OCI/PIO are praised for billions of foreign exchange remittance and investment on other hand PM Modi ji wants OCI to forget their hard earned WHITE money. The FEMA rules clearly allow import/export of 25K by any person. At least I expect Govt. of India to announce whether they are willing to consider deposit by OCI or not. If not, then why?”