| Singh: Equality show
Mumbai, Jan. 7: In the days of India Shining, it was one set of non-residents who were blessed with dual citizenship. In the days of India Under Singh, life has become more equitable ' as some NRIs would say.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced, to a hearty round of habitual clapping which his predecessors received too when they made much the same declaration, at the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas here today that dual citizenship would be offered to all non-resident Indians, colour of country no bar.
Earlier, under the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government, NRIs settled only in 16 countries were given this facility, all of which are in the developed West.
This had drawn criticism as Indian-origin people are to be found in some 110 countries. But the adverse comments had overlooked the fact that many of these do not themselves allow dual citizenship and the 16 that had been listed at first do.
Dual citizenship is not permitted, for instance, in the Gulf.
Singh's announcement keeps out of ambit countries in South Asia. He said dual citizenship would be on offer to all Indians who migrated after January 26, 1950.
Opening the annual winter jamboree of non-residents ' it's now chilly in the West and nice and sunny over here ' the Prime Minister said the facility is there for the asking if the host country of the NRI permits it.
Singh is keen for the scheme to cover NRIs in 'developing' countries like Surinam, Trinidad and Tobago, many of whose ancestors migrated as indentured labourers.
If India Shining had left out farmers whom the new government claims to have kept on its radar screen, dual citizenship will no longer discriminate against NRI poor cousins.
Indian-origin people living in developing countries outnumber their counterparts in the developed world by four times.
'The government will also simplify the procedure,' he said, adding that a new user-friendly form, combining the three forms issued earlier, has been drawn up.
It was later learnt that the government intends to eventually issue a full passport which is what the NRIs want. Or do they' NRIs from the 'developed' world probably do not.
Monique Marimoutou from Reunion, a French island near Mauritius, with a large population of Indian origin, says India is a dream but she's not interested because French citizenship gives her independence that an Indian passport never will.
For the United Progressive Alliance government, it was perhaps important to make the announcement and follow it up with procedural simplifications in its first interaction with the Indian diaspora, the richer cousins among whom, particularly American desis, have traditionally been BJP backers.
But the facility would largely remain a Western NRI affair simply because it is mostly developed countries that allow dual citizenship. To such NRIs, the Prime Minister signalled that the government would do its best to cut red tape after complaints about bureaucratic opacity.
N.K. Gautam, who teaches at Leiden University in Holland, said applications had piled up from that country, but nothing had been done about it. Jagdish Tytler, to whom the honour has gone as the first holder of the ministry for NRIs, promised cure.
The Prime Minister said the Centre would also simplify the process by which overseas Indians can get registered as people of Indian origin.
Praising the achievements of Indians abroad in glowing terms, he said the '21st century will be an Indian century'. 'India needs your investment and we are committed to make India attractive enough for you to invest.'