New Delhi, Aug 6 (UNI) As many as 2.85 lakh Indians residing abroad have been granted overseas citizenship status till last month, with those settled in the US accounting for the lion's share.
"The number of those with Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) cards is about to touch the 300,000 figure," Overseas Indian Affairs Ministry (OIA) sources said here today.
OCI status facilitates life-long visa-free travel to India and certain economic, educational and cultural benefits to overseas Indians.
The exact number of people granted overseas citizenship status till July 2008 was 285,611. Out of them, over 120,000 were from the United States. Other countries where sizeable numbers of OCI had been given, were the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and Sri Lanka.
The scheme came into operation from December 2, 2005 in response to a long and persistent demand for "dual citizenship" particularly from overseas Indians in North America and the Weste.
The decision was also based on the government's deep commitment towards fulfilling the aspirations and expectations of Overseas Indians.
''Any Overseas Indian applicant who is comfortable with his present citizenship status in the country of his residence can apply for OCI. "The OCI is not to be construed as 'dual citizenship' since it does not confer political rights," the ministry clarified.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had announced, at the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas-2005 held in Mumbai, the grant of Overseas Citizenship of India to all Persons of Indian Origin (PIOs) where local laws permit "dual citizenship" in some form or the other except Pakistan and Bangladesh.
India has the second largest diaspora in the world. The overseas Indian community estimated at over 25 million and spread across every major region in the world. It constitutes a diverse, heterogeneous and eclectic global community representing different regions, languages, cultures and faiths.
The common thread that binds them together is the idea of India and its intrinsic values. Overseas Indians comprise People of Indian Origin (PIO) and Non Resident Indians (NRI) and today they are among the best educated and successful communities in the world.
In every part of the world the overseas Indian community is recognised and respected for its hard work, discipline, non-interference and for successfully integrating with the local community.
Overseas Indians have made significant contributions to the economy of the country of their residence and have added in considerable measure to knowledge and innovation.
UNI SH KK BST1929