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.

Man seeking Non Resident Indian (NRI) bride duped

One frequently hears of NRI brides and women seeking NRI alliances being duped by unscrupulous men. In a strange twist.

According to media reports, Sadar police in Ludhiana (Punjab) have registered a case  against a Non Resident Indian (NRI) woman’s family, for allegedly duping a Ludhiana resident of Rs 5.50 lakh on the pretext of marrying him and and sending him abroad.

Image result for indian police cartoon

Krishan Kumar Khatri had placed a matrimonial advertisement the local newspaper calling for alliances for his daughter who is settled in Australia.  After initial conversations, the  bride’s family asked the family of Kulwinder Singh, the prospective groom for 90,000 Australian dollars. They agreed to take the money in three installments, and were paid Rs 1/2 million rupees as the initial installment. After receiving that money, the bride’s family ended all connection with the prospective groom and his family.

The father of Kulwinder complained to the local police, who registered a case under Section 420 (cheating) of the IPC against Mr. Khatri. The investigating officer from Sadar police station, ASI Ravinder Kumar, confirmed that although the ‘negotiations’ had taken place a few years ago, the family filed a complaint only in 2016. A case was registered recently after the initial investigation was completed.


 

In another unrelated news – Matrimonial website fraud: Mumbai schoolteacher claims Rs 11.5 lakh cheating by ‘NRI’

 

The original NRIs and OCIs : One hundred years since servitude

The digirati in online forums like Quora, Rediff frequently wonder about ‘the first’ Non-Resident-Indians, Overseas Citizen of India and the original Indian diaspora. An interesting article in the Economist magazine “One hundred years since servitude”  traces the history of Indians migrating overseas a century ago.

Article and image credit: The Economist, Sep 2nd 2017

20170902_IRP001_0[1]

DOOKHEE GUNGAH, born of Indian migrants, began life in 1867 in a shed in Mauritius and worked as a child cutting sugar cane. By his death in 1944, he was one of the island’s richest businessmen. He is a notable example of how some indentured labourers prospered against the odds.

Between the 1830s and 1917 around 2m migrants signed up for ten-year terms (later cut to five) in European colonies (see chart on next page). Most were from India, with smaller shares from China, South-East Asia and elsewhere. Some “coolies” were fleeing poverty and hunger; others were coerced or deceived. In British colonies from 1834, and in French and Dutch ones from later, they replaced freed African slaves on sugar and coffee plantations.

“Slavery under a different name” is how The British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society described the indenture system in 1839. It had a point. Many migrants died en route, and at first plantation owners, used to slaves, treated their new workers hardly any better. But conditions gradually improved. When the Indian Legislative Council finally ended indenture, a century ago, it did so because of pressure from Indian nationalists and declining profitability, rather than from humanitarian concerns.

The indentured labourers’ fortunes varied from place to place, according to their numbers, who else lived there, and laws about land tenure and race. But a shared post-colonial identity is now emerging, combining pride in India’s economic rise, religious and cultural traditions—and, increasingly, commemoration of their ancestors’ struggles to establish themselves.

Indo-Mauritians are among the richest and most politically powerful of those descendants. As a British colony, Mauritius took the greatest share of indentured migrants: some 450,000. Their descendants are now two-thirds of the island’s 1.26m inhabitants. Many of the largest businesses are owned by Franco-Mauritians whose ancestors dated from the earlier French colonisation, though they make up just 2% of the population. But Indo-Mauritians dominate the public sector.

Local legend has it that Dookhee (pictured with family, third man from left, around 1912) owed his meteoric rise to finding buried treasure. The true story, says his great-grandson, Swetam Gungah, is that “whatever little he had, he would put it aside.” Unlike slaves, indentured labourers were paid, and since most were unable to leave their plantations, they spent little. Aged 21 Dookhee bought land and started growing sugar cane. “He was savvy enough to diversify. He planted an orchard, started a bakery and much more,” says Mr Gungah. When the price of sugar plummeted in the 1880s most plantation-owners went broke. Dookhee got richer. Other former indentured labourers were also able to buy broke colonists out. By 1933 Indo-Mauritians owned almost two-fifths of all land planted with sugar cane.

Land also gave indentured labourers a start in South Africa, where many were granted plots after their servitude. Koshir Kassie’s great-grandfather arrived in the province of Natal and worked on a plantation and then in a gold mine. He saved enough to pay his employer to end his contract early, and bought land. But under apartheid many Indian South Africans, including Mr Kassie’s family, were forced off their land and into Indian townships. “After indenture, Indians built themselves up,” says Mr Kassie. “Then came apartheid and they had to start again.”

Many managed to rebuild. Today, Indian South Africans’ average income is three times higher than that of black South Africans, and they are nearly twice as likely to have finished high school. But these days they are politically marginalised. In the first democratic elections, in 1994, two-thirds voted for the National Party, which had previously defended apartheid. Those with less education particularly resent South Africa’s new system of racial preferences in jobs and education for blacks.

Seeds in fertile ground

Indentured labourers in Trinidad and Guyana (formerly British Guiana) were also granted land. That was less generous than it seems: much of it was ill-suited to growing sugar cane. The Indians, however, discovered it was perfect for rice. Many prospered. But in both places, though people of Indian origin are the largest ethnic group (35% and 40% respectively), they have struggled to gain the level of influence that Indo-Mauritians have.

In Mauritius the departing British colonists regarded Indians as the heirs to power. In Trinidad, however, the mantle was passed to Afro-Trinidadians, who were settled decades before the indentured labourers arrived. Politics and the public sector operated through a patronage system, which kept Afro-Trinidadians in charge. Even after independence in 1962, Indo-Trinidadians were largely excluded from government and public-sector jobs.

Today, politics is still divided on ethnic lines, with the People’s National Movement supported by Afro-Trinidadians and the People’s Partnership coalition supported by Indo-Trinidadians. But socially, the groups are mingling more—and increasingly intermarrying. Nearly a quarter of the population identifies as mixed-race.

In Guyana ethnic divisions cut much deeper. Compared with Trinidad, its sheer size meant ethnic groups formed more segregated communities. A fragile inter-ethnic harmony, nonetheless, prevailed for the first half of the 20th century. That ended in 1964, when a pre-election conflict broke out between the largely Afro-Guyanese People’s National Congress and the largely Indo-Guyanese People’s Progressive Party. “I had Hindu friends, African, Portuguese, Chinese friends,” says Khalil Ali, a Muslim Indo-Guyanese novelist, of growing up in the 1950s and 1960s. “Then suddenly my black friends stopped speaking to me and I stopped speaking to them.” The resulting violence led to hundreds of deaths and thousands fleeing abroad.

Ethnic divisions persisted after independence in 1966, and were worsened by economic hardship. Even as Trinidad boomed because of oil, disastrous left-wing policies reduced resource-rich Guyana to one of South America’s poorest countries. But in 2015 a multi-racial coalition came to power, promising unity. Although change is slow—the government is still mostly Afro-Guyanese and Mr Ali says Indo-Guyanese who joined the coalition have been called traitors—elections in 2020 offer another glimmer of hope. Younger Guyanese are further distanced from the events of the 1960s. The mixed-race population, now around 20%, is growing.

Indentured workers’ descendants have done least well where their ancestors could not own land, as in Fiji. Its indigenous population resented the new arrivals, and the British made promises about land ownership to their tribal chiefs. Many Indo-Fijians became tenant farmers, and for part of the 20th century did quite well, says Crispin Bates, who leads a project funded by the British Arts and Humanities Research Council entitled “Becoming Coolies”. But when their leases came to an end, starting in the 1980s, their status declined.

Sporadic attempts to improve their position after independence in 1970 ended with a coup in 1987. A new constitution reserved majorities for ethnic Fijians in both houses of parliament. Over 10,000 Indo-Fijians left the island as a result. Two further coups centred on their rights. Finally, in 2013 Indo-Fijians were given equal status in the constitution. And, in 2014, in free elections, Frank Bainimarama (who led the most recent coup, in 2006) won with an anti-racist message. His task is considerable: though land has been made easier to lease, holdings by ethnic Fijians still cannot be sold. Indo-Fijians are still excluded—and ethnic Fijians are newly aggrieved. Anti-Indian sentiment is rampant.

Pride and prejudice

In most places that took indentured labourers, racial animus persists. Their arrival was “a real trauma” for indigenous and former-slave populations, says Mr Bates. In Trinidad and Guyana “coolie” is used as a slur (and the Indo-Guyanese and Indo-Trinidadians have plenty of racist terms for their compatriots of African origin). In Fiji and the French Caribbean “z’Indiens” are stereotyped as money-grubbing, and mocked in expressions such as “faib con an coolie” (“weak as a coolie” in Guadeloupian creole). In the 1970s a Fijian politician, Sakesai Butadroka, said in parliament that “people of Indian origin” should be “repatriated back to India”. As recently as 2014 a popular song by the Zulu band, AmaCde, called on black South Africans to confront Indians and “send them home”.

 

20170902_IRC928[1]

Strangers in strange lands, indentured labourers and their descendants preserved some traditions, from caste practices to recipes. From the 1880s the Arya Samaj, a religious group, attempted to reinstate Hindu culture in the diaspora—which rallied, in turn, behind Gandhi’s Indian nationalist movement in the 1920s and 1930s. During periods of ethnic strife in the 20th century hyphenated-Indian communities turned inwards for self-protection.

In recent years, though, a new kind of “Indian pride” has begun to take form. Mauritius has had strong links with India since post-independence tax and trade deals. But of a recent visit to Mauritius, Ashutosh Kumar, the author of a new book about indenture, “Coolies of the Empire”, says “the way Mauritians were discussing Indian politics: it was like I was back home in India.” In Trinidad, which got its first Indo-Trinidadian prime minister in 1995, there is “a new sense of Indian cultural pride”, says Andil Gosine, an Indo-Trinidadian academic in Canada. “When I go back now I see loads of people wearing saris, which they wouldn’t have done before.”

This cultural revivalism is, to some extent, the work of Hindu nationalists, particularly the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council). It has recently devoted more attention to the diaspora—and stirred up tensions between Hindus and Muslims. More is due to India’s rise as an economic power. Diaspora Indians are seeking to “bask in the reflected glory of their motherland”, says Mr Kumar.

Khal Torabully, a Mauritian poet of mixed Indian descent, has coined the word “coolitude” for a new identity, which mixes heritage from India and the other sending countries with a century of history in racially diverse former colonies. Acknowledging their ancestors’ servitude as part of that can be uncomfortable. Indian South Africans are “proud to be Indian”, says Mr Kassie, but “don’t like to talk about indenture much”. Mr Gosine recalls his grandfather describing his own grandfather: “A Brahmin, riding around the plantation on a horse, dressed all in white. But then my grandmother chipped in: ‘What on earth are you talking about?’”

Making sense of displacement and difference, struggle and success, is also a work in progress for host countries. But some have started to weave the history of indentured labourers into their national narratives. In 2006 Aapravasi Ghat, where they first arrived in Mauritius, was recognised as a UNESCO world heritage site. In the same year the Indian Caribbean Museum opened in Waterloo, Trinidad. Last year the 1860 Indian Museum, dedicated to indenture, opened in Durban. “We still have a lot of problems to think of ourselves as Mauritians,” says Mr Torabully. “But remembering indenture, just as we remember slavery, is at the heart of that identity.”

You may also be interested in GaramChai.com section on Indian Statistics 

 

 

 

#BookReview – The Bounce!: A Story of Love, Loss and the Life of a Global Indian #Free

The book, The Bounce!: A Story of Love, Loss and the Life of a Global Indian  is available for #Free download from #Amazon (from Feb 1 – 5 2018)

The Semi-Autobiographical fictionalized story in the eBook is loosely based on a real incident – Infant Aditya Mohan died on Jet Airways Flight 229 ( Brussels – Delhi ), 17th June 2008 (link)

51YMRAsWRfL[1]

From the book blurb

The Bounce! is a human-interest story that chronicles the life and adventures of a computer programmer, Raj, as he migrates across four countries spanning three continents. The first half of this engaging story is about Raj’s experience seeking love by moving back from America to India, eventually migrating to Canada with his new bride. During their journey, the couple experiences a tragic loss onboard an international flight.

The second half of the book chronicles the protagonist and his wife bouncing back. It is a story of love, loss and the life of an Indian American who happens to be an accidental beneficiary of globalization and offshoring.

The author’s delicate narrative is, in essence a tragedy to triumph story that should appeal to everyone seeking their inner-hero.

The Bounce! gives an insight into the world of our educated, but globally transient workforce: how immigrants fit into American culture and communities, build their own away-from-home communities, and how they struggle with the age-old immigrant’s dilemma: balancing the adopted worlds’ needs against traditional values and cultures.

The book has 39 reviews on Amazon.com , and the top reviewer posts  :

It is hard to find words to describe a story like the one that is shared in this book. Based on a true story and written in the first person, it is easy to feel deeply what the protagonist feels as he journeys (literally) through life. As one reads it is easy to feel the young Raj’s initial lightness as he works towards acquiring a green card and pursuing a successful career in the IT world while looking for love. His reserved joy at receiving his green card and the contrast made to the Indian youngsters seen in Bollywood movies, where dancing and singing are commonly observed, had me smiling as I read.

Raj’s initial humor and joy/hope for the future is heavily contrasted with the unthinkable tragedy he later experiences, yet themes of hope are strong throughout the book. The theme, “live in the present,” is subtly woven throughout Raj’s road to healing and hope after heartache. The reader is allowed to experience the whole spectrum of human emotion — humor, joy, love, hope, sorrow, shock, anger and ultimately revelation. These emotions are interwoven with fascinating revelations about various parts of the world, such as Switzerland, Canada, India, and parts of the United States.

This book is perfect for anyone who has experienced love, loss or both. It is especially powerful for those who may have lost a loved one well before it was thought possible. The ending is a poignant testimony to the God-given ability to not only survive a terrible loss, but to thrive as well. This short story was simply put – beautiful. I absolutely loved it and would not wish for any portion to be omitted. I would have loved a few more minutes with Ajay at the end, though!

Pravasi Bhartiya Diwas: First PIO Parliamentarian Conference held in New Delhi

Every year, January 9 is celebrated as Pravasi Bharatiya Diwas (PBD), an annual celebratory day that marks the contribution of overseas persons of Indian origin (PIO) towards their homeland. This year, the theme has focused on engaging political and elected leaders from across the globe.

The 1st PIO-Parliamentarian Conference was inaugurated by Prime Minister of India, Shri Narendra Modi in Delhi on 9th January 2018. Welcoming the delegates to the Conference, the Prime Minister said that while many people may have left India over the course of hundreds of years, India continues to have a place in their minds and hearts. The Prime Minister said that Persons of India Origin (PIOs) are like permanent ambassadors of India and partners for India’s development, who have an important position in the Action Agenda till 2020, drafted by the NITI Aayog.

Addressing the 2nd Plenary Session on ‘Resurgent IndiaRole of PIO Parliamentarians’, Shri Ananthkumar, Union Minister for Chemicals & Fertilizers and Parliamentary Affairs said that, “I am honoured to be here on the momentous occasion of the 1st PIO-Parliamentarian Conference and extend a warm welcome to all of you.”

At the outset, the Minister congratulated Union Minister for External Affairs (MEA), Smt. Sushma Swaraj for hosting this important and historic conference, where a Rainbow of Parliamentarians of Indian Origin from over 20 Democracies of the World gathered to share Parliamentary best practices and mutually enrich each other with their experiences.

Shri Ananthkumar stated that under the dynamic leadership of Shri Narendra Modi, India and the Indian Diaspora has found greater recognition and popularity among the Comity of NationsThis is evident from the unprecedented response received by the Prime Minister in every country that he has visited. Occasions such as this conference provide us with an opportunity to further strengthen and diversify our engagement with diaspora, the Minister added.

Elaborating the contributions of PIOs in different countries around the world, Shri Ananthkumar said that people of Indian origin have contributed considerably to the economy and social upliftment of the countries in which they lived. The Minister conveyed his sincere appreciation at how languages like Hindi, Bhojpuri, folklore such as Ramayana, literature from India, traditional cuisine etc. have not only survived but are flourishing in these countries. This was possible and achieved only because Indian migrants in these countries were determined to preserve their traditions, norms and customs. “All of you here are members of our extended family and bound by ties of history, emotional attachment, cultural affinities and kinship”, the Minister added.

Shri Ananthkumar called the gathering as a mini World Parliament of People of Indian origin. He congratulated the External Affairs Minister for laying a strong platform today by organizing todays summit on PIO Parliamentarians. Further, he stated that PIOs have achieved great heights in Politics and Governance in various countries and also become Heads of State which is a matter of great pride and happiness for 1.25 billion Indians here.

The Minister invited the august gathering of PIOs to partner in the development of their Motherland India. Flagship schemes of Government of India such as Skill India, Start up India, Stand up India, Make in India etc. provide a great opportunity for PIOs to partner in India’s resurgence as a global power, Shri Ananthkumar stated

The session also witnessed distinguished PIO Parliamentarians placing their experiences before the gathering and how they are still very much connected to their roots in India through the Principles of Peace and Harmony that they have imbibed from their ancestors. Other dignitaries who addressed the gathering included Shri M. Thambidurai, Deputy Speaker Lok Sabha and Shri D.K. Mulay, Secretary MEA. (PR)

Sound bites:

  • As many as 120 parliamentarians, mayors and political leaders from 23 countries are participating in the conference.
  • January 9 is celebrated every year as ‘Pravasi Bhartiya Diwas’ to commemorate the contributions of overseas citizens of Indian origin towards India.
  • While 124 MPs from the UK, Canada, Fiji, Kenya, Mauritius, New Zealand, Sri Lanka and other countries are slated to take part in today’s conference, 17 mayors from US, Malaysia, Switzerland, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago will also participate in it.
  • No lawmaker from the US is  attending this year’s PIO conference because of the ongoing session of the Senate.

Indian Origin NRI arrested and charged with sexually assaulting woman on plane in Michigan

A 34-year-old man of Indian-origin Prabhu Ramamoorthy was arrested by federal authorities in Michigan after a woman co-passenger complained of being sexually assaulted by him after falling asleep on the flight.

Prabhu allegedly groped the 22-year-old seated next to him on a Spirit Airlines flight from Las Vegas which landed in Detroit early on January 3, the Washington Post reported.

prabhu
Image from Facebook

The man, Prabhu Ramamoorthy, who prosecutors said is an Indian national living in the United States on a temporary visa, was charged with aggravated sexual abuse and held without bail after an appearance in federal court in Michigan on Thursday.

The victim told investigators that she woke up to find her pants and shirt unbuttoned and the man’s hand inside her pants.

Federal prosecutor Amanda Jawad said that Ramamoorthy sat between his wife and the victim. He stopped after the victim woke up, and the woman went to the back of the plane to report the incident to a flight attendant, the criminal complaint said.

Two flight attendants told federal investigators that the victim was crying and that her shirt was untied and that her pants were unbuttoned when she reported the incident at about 5:30 a.m., 40 minutes before the plane’s landing, Jawad said. The attendants kept the woman in the back of the plane and offered her a different seat, and while they were talking to the victim, Ramamoorthy’s wife came to the back to see what was going on, Jawad said.

Ramamoorthy was arrested after the plane landed, according to court documents. He told agents in a written statement that he had taken a pill and fallen into a deep sleep, Jawad said, and that he hadn’t done anything besides learning from his wife that the 22-year-old woman was sleeping on his knees.

Magistrate Judge Steven Whalen, who said it was a “very unusual case,” ordered Ramamoorthy to be held pending trial after Jawad successfully argued that he was a flight risk and a potential danger to others around him. The prosecutor said that Ramamoorthy’s wife, who was also living in the United States on a temporary visa, would not make a suitable custodian for him.

Prosecutors said Ramamoorthy, who hails from Tamil Nadu was living in the United States on a temporary visa. He was charged with aggravated sexual abuse and held without bail after an appearance in federal court in Michigan on Thursday.


 

In another unrelated news, Times of India reported that an Indian doctor has been sentenced to 10 months behind bars in the US for groping two teenage female patients and faces deportation to India after the completion of his jail term.

Arun Aggarwal, 40, was sentenced on Thursday after pleading guilty to four counts of gross sexual imposition.