OFBJP President Aditya Tawatia speaks with Asian Journal about Indian Government’s new policies for PIOs and more.
Q: There was a recent announcement by Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi about combining of OCI and PIO card; can you provide more details about this new initiative?
Aditya: Last month Prime Minister Narendra Modi while addressing the cheering crowd of 20000 at the Madison Square Garden in New York, announced the easing of travel and visa norms, including lifetime visas for Persons of Indian Origin (PIOs). In addition to announcing the merger of PIO and Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) schemes, PM also said that a visa-on-arrival scheme was in the pipeline. PIO card scheme was launched in 1999 to provide parity to Persons of Indian origins with non-resident Indians in respect of facilities available to the latter in economic, financial and educational field. It was done by the BJP government under the leadership of Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Later in 2005, Congress government introduced scheme of OCI. These two schemes are very similar and caused lot of confusion, now PM Modi has announced to combine these two schemes. I encourage individuals to contact Consulate General of India in Vancouver to get specific details.
Q: What is the significance of this announcement in the broader context of policies of new government in India and how will it impact Indian origin people living in Lower mainland specifically and in general in Canada?
Aditya: It is a positive step by new government in New Delhi, indicating the seriousness and significance they give to all Indians irrespective of the place in world they have chosen to live and work. It is also in line with the philosophy of new Prime Minister to expedite decision making and reduce red tape. To ensure expedited decision making, all departments have been told that a file must not go through more than four layers before a final decision is made. As you may know within first 30 days of his becoming Prime Minister he asked all secretaries – who head central departments – to identify and remove at least 10 archaic rules and procedures that are redundant. I believe this is very significant for all of us Indo-Canadian as we come to expect very efficient and clean government policies and when we interacted with Indian system in past we were all frustrated, now things are changing for better and they are changing very fast.
Q: What are some of other causes for which OFBJP is working towards?
Aditya: Overseas Friends of the Bhartiya Janta Party (OFBJP) is a Socio-political organization that represents BJP in Canada, with an objective of promoting cultural, business and political cooperation between India and Canada. We are working closely with other OFBJP units, Indo-Canadian business community and other like-minded organizations to strengthen and expedite relationships and formal agreements like free trade between Canada and India. We are also working to get an Indian stamp release to commemorate 100th anniversary of the Komagata Maru.
Q: Any final thoughts and message for our readers?
Aditya: First of all I would like to congratulate all Indian and Pakistani friends on joint Nobel Prize for peace this year which has been awarded to Kailash Satyarthi and Malala Yousafzai. OFBJP will be celebrating this momentous occasion and fund raising for the cause. I wish all Indians a very Happy Deepawali, may this festival of light bring lots of joy and happiness to everyone. There is an Diwali Fest that will be held at White Rock waterfront on Oct 18. The initiative is supported by the City of Surrey, there will be free parking, fireworks and celebrations. I call upon all the residents of Surrey and greater Vancouver to come to the fair and enjoy the festival of lights!