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Indian diaspora seeks Modi’s help over demonetised currency

24diasporaNew Delhi, Jan 24
 The Global Organisation of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO) has pointed out to Prime Minister Narendra Modi that diaspora Indians are being turned away by the RBI from depositing or exchanging their demonetised currency and appealed that they be allowed to do so.

The GOPIO, which brings together the Indian diaspora around the world, said in a statement that Indian diaspora with foreign citizenship and OCI/PIO card holders are being turned away by Reserve bank of India from depositing their demonetized currencies, despite the extended deadline for NRIs being till June 30, 2017. 

The GOPIO, in an appeal to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, said that after standing outside for several hours, Indians with foreign citizenship were being told by the RBI that only NRIs with Indian passport can go inside and exchange the scrapped Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes.

The organisation requested the Prime Minister that Diaspora Indians with foreign citizenship, and Person of Indian Origin (PIO) and Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) card holders be given the same opportunity for depositing old currency notes as given to NRIs (Indian Passport holders), allowing them to deposit up to Rs 2,50,000 of Indian currency in the RBI instead of notified amount of Rs 25,000.

The appeal further states that Diaspora Indians (who are not able to visit the country) should also be permitted to deposit money in their bank account in India through an authorised agent. (The amount certified by the foreign branches of State Bank of India or Indian Missions in the country of their residence or in RBI/NRO accounts with various banks in India.)

The GOPIO also said that since all Diaspora Indians with foreign citizenship, PIO and OCI card holders may not be able to visit India prior to June 30, they should be allowed to deposit old currency notes at either the RBI/NRO accounts maintained with various banks in India up to December 31.

The appeal addressed to the PM states, “You have repeatedly acknowledged the role of NRIs/PIOs and expatriates in the resurgence of India and their record annual remittances to India which is the highest compared to any country in the world. 

“We urge you to agree to the requested concession for goodwill of 30 million NRIs and PIOs and amend the notification # RBI/2016-17/2005/DCM/(Plg) No 2170/10.27.00/2016-17 dated December 31, 2016,” the organisation said.

The Centre had extended for six months the last date for applying for conversion of PIO cards to OCI cards to June 30, 2017 from December 31, 2016. 

The PIO card was first implemented in 2002 as a benefit to foreign nationals who could establish at least a third generation tie to Indian origin. The PIO card was valid for travel, work, and residence in India for a period of 15 years. 

The OCI card was implemented in 2005, and carries more expansive benefits than the PIO card, and is valid for the holder’s lifetime. 

Sarosh Zaiwalla, Founder and senior partner at London based law firm Zaiwalla & Co. Solicitors, in a statement said that the “Indian diaspora from various countries have expressed that the government should consider for deposits in Indian embassies around the world as a solution for ease of implementation of the currency exchange across the globe, as majority of NRI’s reacted positively to the demonetization move”.

“The fact that the NRIs did not receive any guidance after the shock announcement of the
demonetisation even until December 30 felt somewhat misplaced. However, just after the deadline and fresh into the New Year, first communication from the government towards at the NRI’s emerged of the extension until 30 th June 2017. If NRI’s are to travel to India within the window period to exchange their old bank notes, it may be tricky under the current FEMA guidelines considering the cap for bringing in Indian currency from abroad is set at INR 25,000 per person, and It would be economically unviable to spend nearly INR 50,000 (UK airfare) on air tickets just to convert it.

“Expecting millions of Indian nationals to return back to the country just to drop back dead notes is inconvenient and ineffective. Therefore, a localised solution through any of the Indian banks or embassies abroad would be a viable alternative,” the statement said.

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