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Rediff.com  » News » Raised entry fee, visa issues to mar Pravasi Bharatiya Divas 2014?

Raised entry fee, visa issues to mar Pravasi Bharatiya Divas 2014?

January 06, 2014 20:25 IST

All we want from the government is to give us visa but they can’t even deliver that, says Inder Singh, chairman of Global Organisation of People of Indian Origin International

Inder Singh, chairman, Global Organisation of People of Indian Origin International, who has been attending the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas since 2004, says this might be his last visit.

“The excitement has not been there,” the 81-year-old told rediff.com. “Personally you gain nothing. It’s about community involvement.” Also attending the PBD, he said, was expensive. Pegging the amount between $5,000 and $10,000 -- what he called a conservative estimate -- he said, “You have to spend from your pocket.”

To add to that the government has raised the entry fee this year; a ticket cost $250 to $300 (Rs 18,693 approx), depending on the days you attend.

The 12th edition of PBD is themed ‘Engaging Diaspora: Connecting Across Generations.’ GOPIO, which takes up issues of the Indian Diaspora, is represented by a large delegation at the event. This year they will focus on ‘The Indian Diaspora: Engaging PIOs of Today and Tomorrow.’

Singh has been involved in tackling various visa-related issues and the issue of the high fee attached to ‘surrender certificate.’ “We fought with the Indian government and we just asked for what we deserve,” he said.

He is also involved in the remodeling of the Gadar memorial building in San Francisco. The Gadar movement celebrated its centenary year in 2013, and in honour of that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had released a postal stamp at PBD and announced an upgrade for the Gadar museum in San Francisco -- where the movement started -- to a functional library and museum. The provisions for this were included in India’s budget last year.

Singh lobbied hard and on his agenda was a meeting with the finance ministry and the ministry of overseas Indian affairs to clarify the updates on the project. “Being an international chairman we have to find out where we stand with regard to this building,” he said.

He also brought up the functioning of BLS International US, a visa application centre that was awarded contract this year by the Indian government. He accused the company of having inefficient and careless staff and said users had faced problems in the US as well as in Canada.

“This company has not been able to deliver,” he said. “All we want from the government is to give us visa and they can’t even deliver that.”

Singh said he would also raise the issues surrounding the passports of Overseas Citizens of India -- especially the requirement of reapplying for a new passport for those below 20 and over 50 years of age.

He said the Indian government was going to merge the Person of Indian Origin card and OCI card, and added, “We have to see what new rules are coming in.

We have given them input and the Parliament has authorised to move ahead and merge the two. PIO gives only 15 years of visa. When you get the Green Card in the US, it’s for a lifetime and it does not ask for your photo or to reapply after a certain age. We have asked them why they don’t follow the American system.”

Image: Global Organisation of People of Indian Origin International hopes to bring up issues surrounding the functioning of BLS International and the passports of Overseas Citizens of India at PBD 2014.

Photograph: Hitesh Harisinghani/Rediff.com

Ritu Jha in California