GOPIO Organizes Community Interactive Session with Minister of Overseas Indian Affairs

NEW YORK (TIP): The Global Organization of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO), in collaboration with several community organizations and groups in the New York/New Jersey/Connecticut tri-state area, hosted a luncheon and interactive session on issues of interest to NRIs/PIOs with Vayalar Ravi, Minister of Overseas Indian Affairs (MOIA). The event held here on May 27 was well attended and the issues raised and questions posed to Minister Ravi concerned the Indian communities regionally and nationally.

Preceding a formal welcome, GOPIO International president Ashook Ramsaran requested everyone to observe “a moment of silence on this Memorial Day to remember and pay homage to all who served and sacrificed for their country as well as for the victims of Chattisgargh and other tragedies”. Ramsaran then welcomed Minister Ravi and Ambassador D. Mulay, India’s Consul General in New York, as well as all attendees.

GOPIO’s secretary J. Nami Kaur and Director of Diaspora Development Mridul Pathak presented to Minister Ravi GOPIO’s memorandum of community issues and matters of interest which were developed from various inputs, suggestions and recommendations received from chapters, membership and other organizations among the Indian American community in the United States.

“Development of this memorandum is also based on GOPIO’s extensive knowledge, experience and interaction within GOPIO as well as with other individuals and groups in the Indian community regionally, nationally and globally”, said Ramsaran.

The issues in the GOPIO memorandum included: OCI Card uniformity for all; Alternate documentation for PIO Card; OIC scheme; Changes in IDF procedures; alternate sites (US) for MBBS exams; NRI Tax beyond 60-day stay; uniformity of information, policies and practices; Reciprocity from India regarding US Immigration Bill for spousal employment; NRI Property Rights and Fast Track Judiciary; Research Visa, OCI/PIO Card holders; Indian Indenture Arrival Commemoration Plaques in PIO Countries; GOPIO’s support and collaboration on community outreach and feedback.

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There were other memoranda presented to Minister Ravi: one by Federation of Kerala Association (FOKANA) and another by Malayalee Organizations of New York. These memoranda focused primarily on OCI cards and associated issues. Following remarks by Ambassador Mulay and H. R. Shah, and introduction by GOPIO’s founding president Dr Thomas Abraham, Minister Ravi responded to all the issues and concerns raised in a very active and participatory session with attendees and the press.

He was receptive to the questions posed and expressed appreciation to the NRI/PIO populations and their concerns for improving the procedures. “I will do all I can in my ministry (MOIA) to get you answers to your questions and help in any way I can”, said Ravi. The general consensus is that NRIs and PIOs look to MOIA to be the advocacy ministry in the Government of India to address Indian Diaspora issues of interest and concern with respective ministries within the Government of India as well as foreign governments – to seek remedy and redress to resolve current, critical issues affecting people in the Indian Diaspora.

The issues raised have been hanging fire for a long time. In each interactive session with the minister the same issues have been raised and the minister has more often than not, been evasive and, at best has come up with what he said at this session: “I will do all I can in my ministry (MOIA) to get you answers to your questions and help in any way I can”.

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