Jaipur:  India on Sunday announced that it would allow Non-resident Indians (NRIs) to vote and participate in the election process.

READ MORE: PM positive on economic growth by 7 percent

Red tape deter investment in India: NRIs

Day 2 of NRI event witnesses chaos

Need to tap potential of NRIs: Pranab

Gehlot for special status to Rajasthan

“Pursuant to the law that was enacted to enable Non-resident Indians to vote in our national elections, the government has issued notifications for registration of overseas electors under the Representation of People Act, 1950,” Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said.

“This constitutes the first major step to enable Indian residents abroad to participate in our election process,” the Prime Minister said while addressing the annual Pravasi Bharatiya Divas diaspora meet here.  He said the diaspora plays an important role in the growth and development of the country. The government recognises it, and was committed to address their concerns and fulfil their demands.

“The government and people of India recognise and value the important role being played by Indian communities living abroad. We believe that Indian diaspora has much more to contribute to the building of modern India,” the Prime Minister said.

“We propose to facilitate, encourage and promote this engagement. Over the past year, we have taken a number of steps towards this end,” he added, as he formally inaugurated the 10th annual diaspora meet, the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD) here.  Overseas Indian Affairs Minister Vayalar Ravi said NRIs would be able to exercise their franchise in upcoming elections.

“Indian nationals living abroad can now exercise their franchise in India at the time o f the elections,” Ravi said.  Now those NRIs who have registered with the embassies of their respective countries of stay, would be eligible to vote in the upcoming assembly elections in five states including Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Goa and Manipur. Polls will take place in these countries between January 28 and March 3. 

Ravi said objective of the government was to further increase engagements with diaspora. “Our objective is to raise the level of engagement to go beyond mere investment related issues and address a broader agenda.”

“We believe that this will provide the vast majority of you the opportunity to benefit from as well as contribute - each in your own way - to India's development story,” the minister said.  Later talking to media person, Ravi said this year's Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD) is the largest congregation of Indian diaspora.  He said almost 1,900 delegates from around 60 countries were participating in the three-day event.

PM offers new pension scheme for NRIs

Fulfilling a long-standing demand, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Sunday announced a new pension and life insurance scheme for overseas Indian workers that would allow over five million workers, especially those working in the Gulf, to save money for the future.

Announcing the Government's decision to introduce and sponsor the Pension and Life Insurance Fund (PLIF) at the 10th Pravasi Bharatiya Divas here, Singh said the scheme will encourage the overseas workers to voluntarily save money for their resettlement and old age.

"I am happy to inform you that the government has decided to introduce and sponsor a new Pension and Life Insurance Fund for overseas Indian workers.

"The scheme will encourage, enable and assist overseas workers to voluntarily save for their return and resettlement and old age," Singh said in his address that was heard with rapt attention by over 1,900 delegates from 60 countries.

Singh said the scheme, which was recently cleared by the cabinet, will also provide a low-cost life insurance cover against natural death.

"This scheme fulfills a long-pending demand of our workers abroad," he said.

Under the scheme, the government will co-contribute Rs 1,000 per annum for all subscribers who contribute between Rs 1,000 and Rs 12,000 per year.

Women overseas workers will enjoy a special additional co- contribution of Rs 1000 a year.

Referring to his Government's decision to allow Non-Resident Indians to vote in elections, he said pursuant to the law in this regard the Government has issued notifications for registration of overseas Indians under the Representation of People Act, 1950. Singh said, "this constitutes the first major step to enable Indians resident abroad to participate in our election processes".

In its efforts to merge the People of Indian Origin and Overseas Citizen of India schemes, Singh said the government introduced a Bill in this regard by amending the Citizenship Act in the just concluded Parliament session.

"This will rectify some of the anomalies in the schemes and provide for an Overseas Indian Card which will be given to foreign spouses of such card holders as well," the Prime Minister said.

He noted that the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs was implementing the e-migrate project to provide end-to-end computerised solutions for all processes in the emigration system.

The system will link all key stakeholders on a common platform which will be used by workers, offices of the protector of emigrants, recruitment agencies, immigration officials, employers and the Indian missions abroad, he said.

Singh also said the government was expanding the scope of the Labour Mobility Partnership Agreements is being expanded to cover not only skilled workers but also students, academics and professionals.

Such Human Resource Mobility Partnership agreements are being negotiated with The Netherlands, France, Australia and the European Union.

Singh also paid rich tributes to the Indian community abroad and said the Indian diaspora has much more to contribute to the building of modern India.

"The government and people of India recognize and greatly value the important role being played by Indian communities living abroad.

"We propose to facilitate, encourage and promote this engagement. Over the past year we have taken a number of steps towards this end," he said.

"The 'global Indian' is a symbol of this diversity of our ancient land. Your individual prosperity and personal achievement are a symbol of what a diverse people like us can achieve," he said.

(Agencies)