The Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, and Vibrant Gujarat Summit both start today, and Modi has managed to keep his promises to expat Indians through yet another ordinance.
The Divas and the Summit will be held in Gandhinagar in Gujarat for three days and will be addressed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and United States Secretary of State John Kerry, among other speakers.
"The Secretary will join leading US business executives and innovators at the Summit to highlight the critical role that US technology plays in supporting sustainable economic growth across India and the Indo-Pacific region, as well as strengthening trade and investment between the two countries," State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki, told reporters. This is the first time the U.S. is joining as a partner country.
Yesterday, on the eve of the three-day event, the government promulgated an ordinance to merge the Person of Indian Origin (PIO) and the Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) schemes, by which PIOs will also get life-long Indian visa. Earlier only OCI members had lifetime visas.
The decision to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955 was taken after feedback from PIOs, who often complained of visits to local police stations and stringent visa norms that debarred them from buying property in India. It will also do away with the clause which says foreigners who marry Indians must stay in India continuously for a year before they can get citizenship. The amendment will give foreigners a relief of 30 days in a year when they can travel outside the country.
Modi had promised to make lifelong visas for expat Indians who have Person of Indian Origin (PIO) status, during his visits to the United States, where he spoke at the Madison Square Garden, and in Sydney. He had also said that the government will make lifetime visas for PIOs, compared with the earlier norm when it had to be renewed every 15 years. The home ministry had introduced the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2014, in the Lok Sabha earlier this month, but it could not be taken up due to frequent disruptions. This is the ninth ordinance promulgated by the Modi government since it came to power over seven months ago.
Pravasi Bharatiya Divas has been celebrated every year since 2003 in memory of Gandhi's arrival in India from South Africa on January 9, 1915.
(With inputs from agencies)