Speaking at the 13th Pravasi Bharatiya Divas in Gandhinagar, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that he has fulfilled his promise to the diaspora of merging the Persons of Indian Origin (PIO) and Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) cards. Prior to Modi’s announcement, the primary difference between OCI and PIO was that the latter allowed for dual citizenship. In Paravasi Divas, organised by FICCI, daily problems of diasporic interest groups and the Indian government’s role in alleviating their concerns were usually discussed. Over the years, however, such events only paid lip service to recognising the role of the Indian disapora.
Their importance to the Indian economy though comes in the form of repatriation, which forms a significant part of our current account balance and finances our imports to some extent. Last year, when our current account deficit was out of control, the Reserve Bank of India eased rules for deposits by NRIs. Such a move increased inflows and eased the impact of such a crisis. In the past there have been attempts at only on getting repatriations from NRIs without much focus on their active participation in the local economy.
The stated motive according to the Press Information Bureau was that 2015 marked 100 years of Mahatma Gandhi’s return to India from South Africa. The Indian diaspora, however, is financially and politically powerful. In the USA, while India residents form less than 1 per cent of total population, their representation in top class educational institutes is 13 per cent. Indians in America on average earn around $ 90,000 per year, which is far above total average income of $50,000. Further, they are politically influential too. However, the real motive behind the event seems to be that Modi seeks to channelise his huge popularity amongst NRIs by making them feel important, which they are economically speaking. Further, the Indian disapora have been asked to contribute to flagship programs of the present government, such as ‘Swacchh Bharat’ and ‘Make in India’.