Diaspora Indians should be given a fair go on demonetisation matters

Sydney, Australia, 23 February, 2017

Quite many people of Indian heritage (Diaspora Indians) are concerned and worried about their inability to change demonetised INR notes of 500 and 1000. Diaspora Indians include NRI (with Indian passports), People of Indian heritage with foreign citizenship (without PIO/OCI cards) and People of Indian heritage with foreign citizenship and PIO/OCI cards.

Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has permitted Indian residents, who were not in India between 8 November and 31 December, 2016, to be able to deposit their demonetised notes at RBI branches in New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, and Nagpur up to 31 March 2017. Non-Resident Indians, NRIs, (who have Indian passports) are able to do so up to June 30, 2017. Overseas Citizens of India (Foreign passports with PIO or OCI cards) or Diaspora Indians with foreign passports, but without OCI/PIO cards, are not able to deposit their demonetised notes at all.

Government of India is making a difference between NRIs and OCIs. This is totally contrary to what is the constitutional position for such people. NRIs and OCIs are supposed to have similar rights in India except that NRIs can vote and hold official positions in India, but OCIs can not. Different rules for different categories of Diaspora Indians is not right or proper.

This matter is being discussed actively among overseas Indians (Diaspora Indians) all over the world. I have been part of numerous such discussions in Australia.

The consensus appears to be as follows:

  • Overseas Indians with Foreign Citizenship, with/without PIO and OCI cards, and NRIs (with Indian passports) should be treated as equal for demonetisation related matters.
  • Overseas Indians with Foreign Citizenship, with/without PIO and OCI cards, and NRIs should be treated as if they are resident Indians. This means that they should be permitted to deposit up to Rs. 250,000 of demonetised Indian currency in the Reserve Bank of India if they can prove that they were overseas between November 8 and December 31, 2016.
  • Current permission to NRIs to deposit amount up to of Rs. 25,000 until 30 June, 2017, if they can prove that they were overseas in the relevant period, should be increased to up to Rs. 250,000. On this matter, NRIs and Resident Indians should be treated equally.
  • As explained below, many diaspora Indians and their families may have more than INR 25,000 because they have been visiting India with their families over many years. They therefore may well have more than INR 25000.
  • Many of the diaspora Indians (NRIs, Foreign passport holders with or without PIO and OCI cards) have old currency notes in their residences in India or overseas for a variety of reasons, which includes holding left over INRs by their family members during travels to India over several years. They should be allowed by RBI and their  Indian Banks, with whom they have NRO accounts, to deposit the amount, provided they can prove that they were overseas between November 8 and December 31.
  • Diaspora Indians (NRIs, Indians with Foreign Citizenship with/without PIO and OCI cards) may not be able to travel to India soon. The last date for such deposits should be extended to  up to December 31, 2017.
  • RBI should consider that it is often not feasible or economically viable for Overseas Indians to travel to India for a variety of reasons including the cost of an air ticket. Tickets costs INR 50,000 to travel from Sydney to India. It will not make any sense to travel to India to deposit a small amount.  It will be worth considering that Diaspora Indians are allowed to deposit their demonetised INR notes at the overseas branches of Indian banks or allowed to bring such money from others, with due authorisation from GOI missions overseas, and be able to deposit this money in relevant banks in India.

Oversea Indians, whose numbers are about 30 million, send FDI of approx. USD 70 million annually, and are often mentioned in Prime Minister’s and other ministers’ speeches, as valuable members of India’s global family. They expect and deserve demonstration of their description of valued members of India’s extended family in the matters related to demonetised currency notes.

It is important that GOI demonstrates its intent by removing the discrimination against diaspora Indians in the matters related to  facilities for demonetised notes not only in comparison to Resident Indians, but also between different categories of Overseas Indians.

http://mha1.nic.in/pdfs/oci-chart.pdf has details of facilities for NRIs and OCIs.

“OCIs have parity with Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) in respect of all facilities available to them in economic, financial, and educational fields except in matters relating to the acquisition of agricultural or plantation properties.”

Diaspora Indians therefore request GOI to amend RBI notification appropriately. https://www.rbi.org.in/SCRIPTS/NotificationUser.aspx?Id=10808&Mode=0

We urge Prime Minister, Sri Narendra Modi, Overseas Indian Affairs Minister, Smt Sushma Swaraj, Finance Minister, Shri Arun Jaitley and Reserve Bank of India to give a serious consideration to our appeal.

Dr Yadu Singh

Federation of Indian Associations of NSW



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