A delegation from GOPIO, the Global Organization of People of Indian Origin met with India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on recently in New York and discussed several Indian Diaspora issues and avenues of cooperation.The delegation was headed by GOPIO International Chairman Dr. Thomas Abraham. Other members included GOPIO Intl Vice President Ram Gadhavi, Chief of Board of Advisors H.R. Shah, International Coordinator for North America Dr. Rajeev Mehta, GOPIO Intl. Chamber of Commerce Co-Chairman Prakash Shah, New York Area Coordinator Lal Motwani, GOPIO-Connecticut Past President Shelly Nichani, GOPIO-New York President Beena Kothari, GOPIO-North Jersey President Rajul Shah, Health Council Chair Dr. Asha Samant, Science/Tech Council Chair Shailesh Naik and Media Council Chair Nami Kaur.
OPIO delegation brought the following issues to the Minister Swaraj: PIO youth participation in Know India Program (KIP) from the developed countries (currently only PIO countries have larger participation) – GOPIO asked for a program in the Summer (July/August) timeframe.
Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, 2019 and GOPIO’s Active Participation – GOPIO provided the largest Overseas Indians registration at the last PBD. GOPIO has the largest network among NRIs/PIOs. GOPIO should be involved from the beginning for PBD-2019 planning. Minister agreed to have representative in every pre-planning meeting of PBF 2019.
Launch of GOPIO International Chamber of Commerce (GICC) – Launched in Mumbai this year on Jan. 10th and inaugurated in New York on April 28th. GOPIO would like to work closely with her ministry to develop this global Indian business people network.
Demonetization Issue- OCIs and PIOs are still holding demonetized currencies since RBI did not allow them to deposit and Diaspora Indians have close to Rs. 7,500 crores still lying with them in small amounts. What should the NRIs do with the old currencies? Minister Swaraj informed that the Govt. had provided the time window for NRIs who are Indian citizens to deposit their currencies earlier. However, that window was not open for Diaspora Indians with foreign citizenship and the government would not be able to provide another such chance.
Aadhaar Card policy confusion for NRIs – NRIs do not have Aadhaar card for linking with their bank accounts. Minister Swaraj clarified that NRIs won’t require Aadhaar card to operate their bank accounts. GOPIO suggested that Indians citizen living anywhere in the world should have an Aadhaar card similar to all US citizens having a social security number, whether staying in the US or outside.
The Middle East NRI issues – NRIs stuck in the Middle East, returned NRIs without any opportunities in India, etc. – GOPIO complimented Minister Swaraj and the Indian Missions worldwide for their pro-active role in helping Indians living outside India in time of distress. However, as more Middle East NRIs are returning home, we need to develop programs to help resettle them. Minister Swaraj said that there are many programs for skills development as well as money available from different ministries for starting a business or technology related outfit. GOPIO offered to be facilitator between the returned NRIs and the government.
Diaspora Women’s Issues – GOPIO, like Indian Missions, take a proactive role on issues of Indian women in the western countries especially the newlyweds who arrive in their new adopted lands and find themselves in financial distress or other crisis mode.
NRI/PIO Participation in Make in India, Clean India, Pooling/Transferring New Technologies for India, etc. – GOPIO can be catalyst to motivate participation of the Diaspora to collaborate with Indian professional and community groups to find creative solutions in these arenas.
Consul General of India in New York Sandeep Chakravorty also participated in the meeting which ended with a positive discussion on how GOPIO can play an instrumental role to support the Indian Government’s objectives with respect to their nationals living abroad. Minister Swaraj encouraged the GOPIO officials to continue engagement with their local congressmen and other legislative officials to advocate for the Diaspora rights and position within their adopted homelands.