Dr. Thomas Abraham, Global Organization of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO) Chairman, confronted Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Governor Dr. Urjit Patel at a talk delivered by him at Columbia University on April 24th for not allowing Diaspora Indians with foreign citizenship to deposit or exchange their demonetized Indian currencies. GOPIO estimates that over Rs. 5,000 crores of demonetized currencies are in the possession of OCI card holders and those non-OCI card holders with foreign citizenship. Many travelling to India to deposit their currencies were turned away by RBI at five of its branches which still accept the demonetized currencies from NRIs who are Indian citizens.
“This is gross injustice to more than 50% of the overseas Indians who have been deprived of their hard-earned income,” said Dr. Abraham. In January 2017, GOPIO launched a PeitionOnline campaign appealing to 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. Currently, NRIs holding Indian Passport are only allowed to deposit or exchange the demonetized currencies at five Reserve Bank India branches in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai and Nagpur.
Dr. Abraham presented a copy of the issues and comments raised by Diaspora Indians through PetitionOnline. Several thousands of Diaspora Indians signed the petition which is still going on at www.gopio.net. “This is a major issue for the Diaspora Indians and it is a created issue and it needs to be resolved,” said GOPIO International President Niraj Baxi.
In a letter to RBI Governor Patel, GOPIO noted that It would be unfair of India to treat OCI card holders differently from NRIs for depositing their hard-earned demonetized currencies. 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. RBI argument that OCI card holders may be used by those in India to convert their demonetized currencies fails apart since more NRIs have closer contacts with people in India than OCI hard holders, so why discriminate OCI card holders.
The letter further stated that some of the NRIs and PIO/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;
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 or in their NRO Accounts up to December 31, 2017.
“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 Indian banks were accepting the notes,” Dr. Abraham added. GOPIO has appealed to Dr. Patel to resolve this issue quickly.