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NRI centre to be set up within Indian Embassy in US: Ravi

Written by: Staff
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Washington, July 6 (UNI) An NRI Centre is proposed to be set up within the Indian Embassy in Washington DC to settle issues pertaining to the Non-Resident Indians living in the United States, Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs, Vayalar Ravi said here last night.

India was working out the modalities, functions and role of the NRI Centre and an announcement in this regard was expected to be made soon, Mr Ravi added.

Addressing a press conference at the Indian Embassy here, the minister, who is on a fortnight-long visit to the US, said the Indian Ambassador would be in charge of the centre as he would be able to hold briefings and consultations with the NRIs in a bid to solve their problems.

Replying to questions on dual citizenship and PIO cards for NRIs, the Minister said the government had already issued about 6,000 PIO (Persons of Indian Origin) cards. It was now debating on speeding up the process of issuing Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) cards that would eliminate visa restrictions on NRIs visiting India. The minister also mentioned that Parliament was considering a bill on granting voting rights to Non-Resident Indians to forge closer ties with the nearly 25 million Indian diaspora worldwide.

Mr Ravi said: ''His (NRI) name can be included in the voter list, then he becomes a voter and naturally when polling takes place in India and if this gentleman is present in India, he can vote.'' A government committee has been working on a draft bill to grant voting rights to NRIs. The bill would be taken up for discussion in Parliament.

To questions about fake marriages and how overseas Indians sometimes cheated and gave wrong information for marital purposes, the Minister said an awareness programme had been launched in India so that people did not rush into such marriages. Issues like this and other social problems like divorce settlements, child custody battles, adoption matters, could be brought to the notice of the proposed NRI Centre which would be in a better position to settle them with the help of both the US and the Indian governments, he added.

The minister's trip to the US took him to Los Angeles, San Francisco, Atlanta, Orlando, Washington DC, New York and Chicago.

He also took part in community gatherings including the National Federation of Indian American Associations (NFIA) in Atlanta, the annual convention in Orlando of the Federation of Kerala Associations of North America and a meeting in Florida. He also addressed the general body meeting of the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) in Atlanta, Georgia over the weekend.

He will go to New Jersey to attend the Federation of Gujarati Association in North America (FOGANA) Convention this coming weekend.

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