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.

 

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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.

Update on PPF account for NRIs – You can continue with PPF account now

The Indian government recently announced that Public Provident Fund (PPF) accounts had to be closed when a person became a Non Resident Indian (NRI). 

A few months ago in October, the government announced that if a resident, who opened an account under this scheme, and subsequently becomes a non-resident during the currency of the maturity period, the account shall be deemed to be closed with effect from the day he becomes a non-resident.

Image result for ppf

On February 23, 2018, the government’s Department of Economic Affairs (DEA)  released an office memo  keeping its earlier notification in abeyance (or temporarily dismissed). The earlier notification was regarding the NRI’s PPF account released on October 2, 2017. According to the recent memo

Subject: Public Provident Fund (PPF) accounts held by Non Resident-regarding.

The undersigned is directed to refer to this Department’s notification GSR No.
1237(E) dated 03.10.2017 regarding amendment in PPF Scheme, 1968. As per the said
notification, if a resident who opened an account under this scheme, subsequently
becomes a non-resident during the currency of the maturity period, the account shall be
deemed to be closed with effect from the day he becomes a non-resident.

2. It has now been decided to keep the said notification in abeyance till the further
order in this regard.

Trudeau in India: Are traditional Indian attires ‘too Indian’ for modern Indians ?

The Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and family, during a recent visit  to India made headlines with their flashy ‘Indian attire’ that got media and digirati debating.

One was the picture of Trudeau family in Sherwani and Sarees with Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan

KhanJustinTrudeau

And then the Trudeaus were spotted at the Golden Temple in Amritsar in a spiffy Punjabi attire

TrudeauGoldenTemple

And the visit to Sabarmati in somber Reds

trudeau-sabarmati
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau along with his wife, Sophie, prays at the Sabarmati Mahatma Gandhi Ashram in Ahmadabad, India, on Monday, Feb 19, 2018. ─ AP

And at Akshardham like a newly wed Gujju couple

trudeau-akshardam

 

O Canada: Perhaps the only exception to the desi-photo-op,  was the Trudeau family visit to Taj Mahal where they managed to look ‘naturally Canadian’ 

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, his wife Sophie Gregoire Trudeau, their daughter Ella Grace and sons Hadrien and Xavier pose in front of the Taj Mahal in Agra

Why is this making headlines?

All this left many Indians wondering if the Trudeau family in ‘traditional Indian attires’ were trying to be a bit too Indian. 

In case you are wondering: Contemporary Indians, especially in urban cities are more comfortable in t-shirts and jeans.

Image result for youth bangalore

Perhaps the only time one sees young men awkwardly milling about in Sherwanis or silk Kurtas are at weddings and melas. Same goes for the globalized bharitya nari, who is more comfortable in pants and jeans and not Sarees and Bindis.

 

images collated from published sources in the media:

#PNBScam – No, Nirav #Modi is NOT related to Indian PM, Narendra Modi

As the details of the multi-billion $ scandal at the Indian Nationalized bank, Punjab National Bank (#PNBScam) unfolds, the world is watching with interest and wondering about the implications. Many around the world are bound to see the headlines describing the involvement of diamond merchant Nirav Modi and will perhaps be wondering about his relation to the Indian Prime Minister, Mr. Narendra Modi.

Nirav_Modi_IT[1]
Nirav Modi, Image credit: India Today
At this time, there are no indications that the two Modis – Nirav and Narendra – are in any way related though they share a common last name.

Wikipedia explains “Modi is a surname in India. The surname is most commonly found amongst people from the Northern and Western states of Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Rajasthan and Gujarat. It is mostly associated with Baniyas, grain merchants and grocers.”

At this time, details of the mega-fraud are still emerging and journalists are trying to piece together the facts (e.g Five things you need to know about Nirav Modi and PNB fraud). According to media reports,

Indian-born diamond jewellery designer Nirav Modi is the founder of the $2.3 billion Firestar Diamond and was ranked #57 in the Forbes list of India’s billionaires in 2017.

Modi grew up in Belgium, dropped out of Wharton and moved to India where he got trained in the diamond trade under his uncle, according to Forbes.

He went on to launch his own Nirav Modi brand with 16 stores in locations such as Delhi, Mumbai, New York, Hong Kong, London and Macau.

 

 

A few recent articles on the scandal

Encouraging Sikh Proposal Submissions for 2018 Toronto Parliament of the World’s Religions

The Parliament Sikh Task Force of the Sikh Council for Interfaith Relations (SCIR) calls upon Sikhs across the world to submit interfaith and intrafaith proposals (panel discussions, workshops, seminars, training sessions, religious performances, exhibits, films etc.) for presentation at the 2018 Parliament of the World¡¦s Religions to be held November 1 to 7, 2018 in Toronto, Canada.

All interfaith and intrafaith proposals must be submitted online at https://parliamentofreligions.org/rfp by deadline of April 1, 2018.

The theme of the 2018 parliament is The Promise of Inclusion, The Power of Love:  Pursuing Global Understanding, Reconciliation, and Change. Programming for the 2018 Parliament will focus largely, but not exclusively, on:

  • broad critical issues of the Parliament¡¦s mission statement (justice, peace and sustainability)
  • critical constituencies (Indigenous Peoples, Next Generations, and Women and Girls)
  • signature document of the Parliament of the World’s Religions, Declaration Toward a Global Ethic.

Kindly note that the Guiding Principles of the 2018 Parliament are:

  1. respectful dialogue: we listen and speak with respect
  2. non-proselytizing: we do not attempt to convert others or speak derogatorily about any tradition
  3. willingness to explore a wide variety of topics: we embody compassion as we engage in difficult conversations.

 More than 10,000 people from across the world are expected to participate in the 2018 Parliament, which will last for seven days and comprise more than 500 programs, workshops, and dialogues, alongside music, dance, art and photography exhibitions, and related events presented by the world¡¦s religious communities and cultural institutions. The Ontario Sikh and Gurdwara Council (OSGC) is planning to serve Guru ka Langar at the parliament during lunch time. For more information on the Guru ka Langar, please contact OSGC at manjit@ramrapsolutions.com.

20170502_132306
 Toronto Mayor John Tory with Dr. Satpal Singh

Having coordinated the Sikh participation and presentations at the 2015 Salt Lake City Parliament of the World¡¦s Religions, SCIR established a 2018 Parliament Sikh Task Force in February 2017. The charge of the Parliament Sikh Task Force is to coordinate and implement the active participation of the worldwide Sikh community at the upcoming parliament through:

  • significant international Sikh presence and engagement,
  • presentations at plenary and parallel sessions focused on interfaith and intrafaith issues, and
  • Guru ka Langar, if possible, at the parliament to be led by the local Sikh community.

 The task force members include Sikh representatives from Canada, US, and across the world. Suggestions and queries about Sikh participation in the upcoming parliament can be emailed to parliamentsikh@gmail.com.

 The Parliament of the World’s Religions was created to cultivate harmony among the world’s religious and spiritual communities and foster their engagement with the world and its guiding institutions in order to achieve a just, peaceful and sustainable world. More information about the 2018 Parliament of the World¡¦s Religions along with online registration is available at https://parliamentofreligions.org/parliament/2018-toronto/toronto-2018.

If you need help with your Sikh proposal submission, please feel free to contact the Program Workgroup of the Parliament Sikh Task Force at parliamentsikh@gmail.com.

Parliament Sikh Task Force

Sikh Council for Interfaith Relations (SCIR)

POB 523, Dublin, Ohio 43017, USA

Phone: 614-753-3292

parliamentsikh@gmail.com


 

You may also be interested in our extensive listings of Sikh Gurudwaras in USA and Canada

Feel good story: NRI couple’s generous act for visually-impaired kids

Here is a feel good story about a Non Resident Indian (NRI) couple giving back to their homeland from The Hindu:

Students of the Nalgonda Blind School, run by the Development and Welfare Association of the Blind, had special visitors dropping into its campus on Tuesday.

An NRI doctor-couple G. Aruna Devi and Gopal Reddy gifted the school dual desk benches for students, a solar power set-up and a refrigerator, all together valued at ₹20 lakh.

Moved by the students’ needs, the couple assured they would direct organisations that could help out the school as part of their corporate social responsibility.

Nalgonda MLA Komatireddy Venkat Reddy, who interacted with the students, shared memories of a visually-impaired friend, telling that strong will helped him achieve success in life.

District Collector Gaurav Uppal said the government was considering undertaking development work at the school.


 

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