indica News Bureau-
Indian-American social activist Prem Bhandari, after observing the inconveniences faced by OCI card-holders of Indian diaspora while travelling to their homeland, has urged the Indian Government to extend the date of OCI card renewal to December 31, 2020 from the existing June 30, 2020.
The Overseas Citizen of India ( OCI) card, among other benefits, allows multiple entry, multi-purpose life-long visa to an Indian-origin foreign national to visit India.
In December, the Ministry of Home Affairs’ Foreigners Division issued an office memorandum directing the relevant government agencies and airlines that Overseas Citizen Of India ( OCI) card holders not between 20 and 50 years of age and who have renewed their passport can travel to India as long as they also have in their possession their old cancelled passport. The Indian Government gave OCI card holders time up to June 30, 2020 to renew their cards. But due lack of awareness and thousands of OCI card holders, Bhandari feels that not many will be able to get their OCI cards renews by the given date, reported Economic Times.
“My humble request to you is to extend the date of renewal of OCI cards till December 31, 2020 such that the Non-Resident Indian/Person of Indian Origin community had enough time to understand the new requirement and renew their OCI cards,” said New York based Bhandai to Indian government this week.
Bhandari, who heads Jaipur Foot USA, has sent his communique to the External Affairs Ministry and other relevant ministries including the civil aviation and home affairs. “This will give ample time to the Indian diaspora to renew their OCI cards and facilitate a pleasurable visit to India,” he told PTI.
The Indian Consulate in New York and other Indian diplomatic missions issued a clarification on the OCI renewal this week. The letter read, “As you are aware with the advisory issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of Civil Aviation to airlines, overseas Indians and PIOs have been facing great difficulties in travelling to India during the busy holiday season in December 2019 and January 2020.”
“As many did not have updated OCI cards or were not carrying their old passports, they were stopped by airlines from boarding. We are grateful to the Ministry of External Affairs and the Ministry of Home Affairs for granting assistance and for helping people to travel to India without their old passports and extending the date of renewal of OCI to June 30, 2020. This has considerably ameliorated the situation,” Bhandari said in the letter.
Bhandari further said that as there are several OCI card holders and boarding as airlines frequently misinterpret the rules or are inflexible, a large awareness campaign and more time is needed to get the information to all the OCI card holders.
“You are aware that a large number of OCI cards have been issued and it is not possible for everyone to be aware of the rules. Many a times I have intervened to get people to board aircraft by using personal influence. Several times, I have sought the help of Consulate in New York to help the people to board,” Bhandari continued.
Although the Government of India and Consulates are trying the best to diffuse and disseminate this information regarding renewal of OCI, many people still remain unaware and “we are hearing daily horror stories,” he said.
Indian-Americans have complained that they were not aware that every time an OCI card holder below the age of 20 and above the age of 50 years renew their passport they have to apply for the renewable of OCI card too. “For all practical purposes, OCI card is not a multipurpose life-long visa, as it has been billed by the government. To clear the confusion, it is important that the government, immediately, say that it is not a multipurpose life-long visa and then take steps to fix the loopholes in this regard,” Bhandari had said last year.
He had raised the issue last year also with then India’s ambassador to the US Harsh Vardhan Shringla and secretary of Ministry of Civil Aviation Pradeep Singh Kharola. Both of them, Bhandari said, were instrumental in coming to the rescue of the Indian diaspora.