NRIs not eligible to file RTI: Centre’s reply to Lok Sabha triggers protests

Union Minister Jitendra Singh told the Lok Sabha in a written reply that Non-Resident Indians are not eligible to file Right to Information (RTI) applications. The Minister said, responding to a question asked by a Member of Parliament (MP) Jugal Kishore Sharma.

“Only citizens of India have the right to seek information under the provisions of Right to Information Act, 2005. Non-Resident Indians are not eligible to file RTI applications. He said subject to the provisions of the Act, the citizens of India could file an online application under the Right to Information Act, 2005.

“Currently, systems of 2,200 public authorities have been aligned to receive, process and reply to online RTIs from the applicants”

Speaking to TNM Sunil Kumar KK, an NRI living in Oman, said that it reveals that the government doesn’t see them as Indian citizens.

“This is a shame. Why can’t we enjoy the facilities that Indians living in India do? We ask only those questions which can be asked according to the Act. So, why should they deny us the online facility?” Sunil asked.

“Additionally, isn’t it impractical to visit the embassy if we are located in a remote area in a foreign land? Many other countries are organising a voting facility for their non-resident citizens. We don’t have that either. And now, they have said no to this (RTI) too,” Sunil added.

Shameer PTK, another resident of Oman, said that he is surprised to hear that the government has denied them the right in the time of Digital India.

“On one side, the government is upholding the theme of Digital India and on the other side, we are being denied the online facility to seek information from government through RTI Act,” Shameer said, adding that it amounts to discrimination.

“Even for Pravasi Bharatiya Divas participation, the government provides online registration only. But to seek information through RTI Act online, they are saying no. It’s like the Orange Passport issue,” he said.

The government had earlier planned orange-coloured passports for Emigration Clearance Required Category Indians for when they travel abroad for a job. However, it was scrapped after protests.

“It looks like the moment you leave India for a job, you are stripped of rights and are seen as an alien. In foreign lands too, you don’t get the basic rights that the locals enjoy and then your own home country denies them,” said Jacob Koshy, an Indian resident in Qatar.

Congress MP Shashi Tharoor on Thursday took to Twitter to state that denying NRIs the right to file RTIs is wrong.

 

Advertisements

More than 21,000 Indians overstayed their visas in the US last year

According to report by the Department of Homeland Security, over 1.07 million Indians visited the US on B-1 visa (business) and B-2 visas (pleasure or medical treatment) last year. According to DHS report (link), nearly 14,200 of these visitors overstayed.

Image result for immigration

In its 2017 Entry/Exit Overstay Report, the DHS said there were 52,656,022 in-scope non-immigrant admissions to the US through air or sea port of entries (POEs) with expected departures occurring in the fiscal 2017; the in-scope admissions represent the vast majority of all air and sea non-immigrant admissions. Of this number, the DHS calculated a total overstay rate of 1.33 per cent, or 701,900 overstay events. For India it was 1.32 per cent.

After years of heady growth Patanjali Ayurved is facing a slowdown

A while ago, we featured Patanjali Ayurved, and it was the fastest growing FMCG company in India. Our feature (link).

Patanjali Products

A few recent articles in the Indian media seem to indicate that Patanjali Ayurved is facing a slowdown after years of heady growth. According to an article in Economic times,

It closed the last financial year at around the same level as the previous fiscal year’s revenue, Rs 10,000 crore.
However, there could be a bigger worry for Patanjali than flat revenues. According to a recent Credit Suisse report, consumer offtake has declined in many product categories. While the company continues to hold sway over toothpastes with Dant Kanti, and in ghee, incremental gains in these categories are said to have declined. “Patanjali is facing headwinds with FY18 sales  ..

Another article also reviews if Distribution could be Patanjali’s Achilles heel? 

There is a huge gap between demand and supply, admits Acharya Balkrishna, MD of Patanjali Ayurved, who’s recently been in the news for his 94% stake in the organisation. (A development touted as a strategic move to take the limelight off Baba Ramdev who has been the face of the company all this while). Balkrishna tells us that besides 1200 Patanjali Chikitsalayas, 2500 Aarogya Kendras, 7000 open stores in villages, and 5600 marketing vehicles, his team is working on launching 250 mega stores in .

According to industry estimates, Patanjali products are currently available in 2 lakh traditional retail outlets popularly called as kirana shops. That’s 1/30th the presence of Hindustan Unilever in the kirana universe (over 60 lakh outlets) — the market leader in FMCG space who Patanjali has reportedly been giving sleepless nights to. As for Colgate and Nestle — players Baba Ramdev took a direct dig at and threatened to oust within a year — the numbers are 47 lakh and 35 lakh, respectively.

Fake call center scam – U.S court sentences 21 people of Indian Origin to 20 years in prison

The United States Department of Justice (link) on Friday announced that a court in Texas had sentenced 21 members of an India-based fake call center and money laundering scam to varying terms of imprisonment. Three others were sentenced earlier this year.

Image result for call centre graphic stock photo

“The stiff sentences imposed this week represent the culmination of the first-ever large scale, multi-jurisdiction prosecution targeting the India call center scam industry,” said Attorney General Sessions.  “This case represents one of the most significant victories to date in our continuing efforts to combat elder fraud and the victimization of the most vulnerable members of the U.S. public.  The transnational criminal ring of fraudsters and money launderers who conspired to bilk older Americans, legal immigrants and many others out of their life savings through their lies, threats and financial schemes must recognize that all resources at the Department’s disposal will be deployed to shut down these telefraud schemes, put those responsible in jail, and bring a measure of justice to the victims.”

“This type of fraud is sickening,” said U.S. Attorney Patrick.  “However, after years of investigation and incredible hard work by multiple agents and attorneys, these con artists are finally headed to prison. Their cruel tactics preyed on some very vulnerable people, thereby stealing millions from them. These sentences should send a strong message that we will follow the trail no matter how difficult and seek justice for those victimized by these types of transnational schemes. We will simply not stand by and allow criminals to use the names of legitimate government agencies to enrich themselves by victimizing others.”

This news of white-collar crime by Non Resident gang was covered by other Indian newspapers after Press Trust of India highlighted it “Over 20 Indian-Origin People Sentenced In Massive US Call Centre Scam”

Prem Watsa named ‘NRI Of the Year’

Prem Watsa, founder of Fairfax Financial Holdings, was conferred the Special Jury ‘NRI of the Year Award’ at the fifth edition of Times NOW & ICICI BankNSE -1.67 % NRI of the Year Awards 2018. Indian football team captain Sunil Chhetri was presented with the ‘Global Indian Icon’ award. The Times Network and ICICI Bank awards were hosted in Mumbai on Friday.

Image result for prem watsa blackberry

One of India’s top recognition platforms, The NRI of the Year Awards salute the spirit of global Indians who have made a mark for themselves worldwide. “Over the course of five editions, NRI of the Year, our flagship property has emerged as the most distinctive and coveted awards platform, instituted to recognise the achievements of the global Indians. It is an important component of our engagement with the Indian diaspora as a media group representing a nation with a global agenda,” said MK Anand MD, Times Network. Kiren Rijiju, minister of state for home affairs, was the chief guest for the function.

Read rest of the article in Economic TimesEconomic Times

Prem Watsa has a sizable investment in Blackberry (According to bloomberg)

“The reason we put a lot of money in [BlackBerry] was because of [CEO] John Chen. John Chen is an outstanding executive — long track record. And I met him just like that in San Francisco. And he had a terrific turnaround at a company called Sybase. And then he says, you know, I bought every BlackBerry that existed and I really don’t want this company to go down. So I said, would you look at perhaps joining the company, and he said, ‘I’ve got to talk to my wife. If she says yes, I will.’ And she said yes and he joined us. If he hadn’t come, we likely wouldn’t have put [in] any money.”

Indian American being considered for Supreme Court by President Trump

The news accounts of an Indian American being considered for Supreme Court by President Trump is generating a lot of buzz among Indians and India diaspora around the globe.

Amul Thapar.jpg

According to IANS news reports

Amul Thapar, an Indian-American appeals court judge from the US state of Kentucky is on President Donald Trump’s short list of potential nominees to replace Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, who announced his retirement a day before.

The first South Asian to be named to a lifetime federal judgeship, Thapar is one of three minorities on Trump’s list of 25 names, which was put together in consultation with conservative legal scholars, the US media reported.

The others are Frederico Moreno, a federal district judge in South Florida, who is Hispanic, and Robert Young, a retired Michigan Supreme Court judge, who is African-American.

So, who is Amul Thapar?

According to Wikipedia:

“Amul Roger Thapar (born April 29, 1969) is a United States Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. He is a former United States District Judge of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky and former United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Kentucky.

Thapar was born in Troy, Michigan to parents who had immigrated from India. He was raised in Toledo, Ohio, where his father, Raj Thapar, owns a heating and air-conditioning supply business. His mother, Veena Bhalla, owned a restaurant. She sold her business after the September 11 attacks and served as a civilian clinical social worker assigned to assist veterans. His parents are divorced. According to his father, the family encouraged Thapar to become a physician but he dreamed of becoming a justice on the United States Supreme Court.”

media accounts

OCIs are to be treated as NRIs for MBBS course: Government of India

Deccan Herald reports today that “OCIs are to be treated as NRIs for MBBS course”

The following news comes at a time when thousands of students are awaiting their counselling for admission to medical exams based on their NEET exam results (link)

The rest of the article from DH follows

The Centre on Tuesday told the Supreme Court that the Overseas Citizens of India (OCIs) are a special class of foreigners and they have to be treated as NRIs only for the purpose of their admission to MBBS course.

A bench of Justices Arun Mishra and S Abdul Nazeer, however, said it is still a debatable issue as there is a difference between the NRIs and the OCIs.

A counsel, appearing for the Union government, submitted before the court that he had received instructions to state that the OCIs are entitled to be considered as NRIs only.

The top court was hearing a plea by a group of OCIs, led by Trupti V Reddy, Shreya Joshi and others, challenging the Karnataka regulations, debarring them from competing for 85% state quota seats for admission to MBBS and other professional courses in colleges of Karnataka by appearing in the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET).

A counsel, appearing for the Union government, submitted before the court that he had received instructions to state that the OCIs are entitled to be considered as NRIs only. File photo
Image from Deccan Herald

The court gave further one week time to the Centre to file its affidavit on the issue and put the matter for further consideration on July 17. 

It, however, declined a plea for passing any interim order in view of the fact the counselling for admission is to begin shortly. “We will not disturb counselling,” the bench said.

The medical education regulator MCI had earlier endorsed the provisions of the Karnataka Professional Educational Institutions (Regulations of Admission and Determination of Fee) Act, 2006, as amended in 2017, whereby the Persons of Indian Origin (PIOs) and OCIs have been treated within the category of NRIs.

With the amendment in the Citizenship Act, 1955, the OCIs claimed they have legal rights to secure admission like other citizens of the country.

The news is significant for thousands of OCIs who returned back with their parents and live in India. In addition it is also significant for OCIs living abroad who aspire to study medicine in India.