Washington, Feb 15 (PTI) In view of the inconvenience faced by the diaspora having OCI card in the US, an eminent Indian-American social activist has urged the Government of India to extend the date of its renewal till December 31.
The Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) card, among other benefits, allows multiple entry, multi-purpose life long visa to an Indian-origin foreign national to visit India.
In December, the Ministry of Home Affairs' Foreigners Division issued an office memorandum directing the relevant government agencies and airlines that Overseas Citizen Of India (OCI) card holders not between 20 and 50 years of age and who have renewed their passport can travel to India as long as they also have in their possession their old cancelled passport.
They were given time till June 30 to renew their OCI card.
But now, based on the feedback that he has been receiving from Indian-Americans and the diaspora community, Indian-American Prem Bhandari said that June 30 is not enough as it needs a massive awareness campaign on part of the Indian government.
'My humble request to you is to extend the date of renewal of OCI cards till December 31, 2020 such that the Non-Resident Indian/Person of Indian Origin community had enough time to understand the new requirement and renew their OCI cards,' New York-based Bhandari, who last year took up the matter, said in a latest communique to the Indian government this week.
Bhandari, who heads Jaipur Foot USA, has sent his communique to the External Affairs Ministry and other relevant ministries including the civil aviation and home affairs.
'This will give ample time to the Indian diaspora to renew their OCI cards and facilitate a pleasurable visit to India,' he told PTI.
This week, the Indian Consulate in New York and other Indian diplomatic missions issued a clarification on the OCI renewal.
'As you are aware with the advisory issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of Civil Aviation to airlines, overseas Indians and PIOs have been facing great difficulties in travelling to India during the busy holiday season in December 2019 and January 2020,' the letter said.
'As many did not have updated OCI cards or were not carrying their old passports, they were stopped by airlines from boarding. We are grateful to the Ministry of External Affairs and the Ministry of Home Affairs for granting assistance and for helping people to travel to India without their old passports and extending the date of renewal of OCI to June 30, 2020. This has considerably ameliorated the situation,' Bhandari said in the letter.
However, many Indian-origin travellers faced difficulties at airports in boarding as airlines frequently misinterpret the rules or are inflexible although Indian Immigration has been allowing people to enter the country without new OCI cards or even without old Passports, he said.
'You are aware that a large number of OCI cards have been issued and it is not possible for everyone to be aware of the rules. Many a times I have intervened to get people to board aircraft by using personal influence. Several times, I have sought the help of Consulate in New York to help the people to board,' Bhandari continued.
Although the Government of India and Consulates are trying the best to diffuse and disseminate this information regarding renewal of OCI, many people still remain unaware and 'we are hearing daily horror stories,' he said.
Indian-Americans have complained that they were not aware that every time an OCI card holder below the age of 20 and above the age of 50 years renew their passport they have to apply for the renewable of OCI card too.
'For all practical purposes, OCI card is not a multipurpose life-long visa, as it has been billed by the government. To clear the confusion, it is important that the government, immediately, say that it is not a multipurpose life-long visa and then take steps to fix the loopholes in this regard,' Bhandari had said last year.
He had raised the issue last year also with then India's ambassador to the US Harsh Vardhan Shringla and secretary of Ministry of Civil Aviation Pradeep Singh Kharola. Both of them, Bhandari said, were instrumental in coming to the rescue of the Indian diaspora. PTI LKJ CPS CPS