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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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.

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“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”

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.

I want to explain arranged marriage to white people

A recent article in BBC.com features Pakistani designer Nashra Balagamwala and her views on arranged marriage.

When Pakistani designer Nashra Balagamwala produced a board game about arranged marriage, most news reports about her wrongly assumed she was dead against it. Actually her position is far more nuanced. And one goal is to explain to people in the UK and elsewhere how it works.

Balagamwala’s kickstarter campaign generated a lot of buzz and raised thousands of dollars more than what she was seeking.

Balagamwala was at the Rhode Island School of Design in the US when she came up with the idea.

“I was about to head home to Pakistan at the end of the year, and I had some proposals waiting for me, so I started stalking the Facebook accounts of those guys to find something about them that my parents wouldn’t approve of, so I could get out of meeting them. And then I thought to myself, ‘Why not get rid of the problem once and for all?’ So I created a list of every ridiculous thing I’ve done to get out of an arranged marriage and turned it into this light-hearted board game.”

 

She tested her game out on her friends, a mixture of South Asians and white Americans.
An American male friend was in fits of laughter while playing. He admitted to Balagamwala that he’d been worried the game would trivialise the subject, but said that he now had a better understanding of it.

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Link to an article in scroll.in

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.

#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)

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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!

Indian Tom Hanks: After a 48-Hour ordeal, Bahrain-bound NRI reaches ‘home’

In a story that seems to mirror that of  Tom Hanks’ plight in the hollywood movie “The Terminal,” a Non Resident Indian (NRI) living in Bahrain, Satyendra Singh was stranded at Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport for over 48 hours.

TheTerminalSatyandera

Mr. Singh had traveled to India to meet his parents in Lucknow. While returning to Bahrain, he arrived in the national capital from Lucknow on Saturday. After he went towards the international security check in Delhi, he put his handbag with his passport in the security scanner. While clearing security, he realized his bag was missing. Another Canada bound passenger had mistakenly taken his bag and boarded an Air Canada flight.

By the time Satyendra Singh discovered his loss, the Canada bound flight had departed. Satyendra was not allowed to leave the terminal due to ‘security reasons’ since he had already cleared immigration check.

Singh had to spend two days at the airport while the airlines tracked his handbag and routed it back from Canada!

He finally reached ‘home’ in Bahrain after a 48-hour ordeal at IGI airport. “My wife was crying and was relieved when I finally reached. They panicked and I just want to thank my wife and her relatives for rallying around me,” said Singh.

Moral of the story: Head the oft-repeated warnings you hear at Airports around the world “Keep your documents and valuables with you at all times”


The Terminal,”  is a moving tale, where Tom Hanks plays the victim of the modern world. That a man could spend months stuck in diplomatic limbo living in an airport may seem far-fetched, but in fact, the movie is inspired by a real-life character who is living at terminal one of Paris Charles De Gaulle airport.