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Overseas Indians and the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs

India has the second largest diaspora in the world. The Overseas Indian community estimated at over 25 million is spread across every major region in the world. Yet, it is difficult to speak of one great Indian diaspora. The overseas Indian community is the result of different waves of migration over hundreds of years driven by a variety of reasons - mercantilism, colonialism and globalisation. Its early experiences make up a saga of trials, tribulations and the eventual triumph of determination and hard work. In the last three decades of the 20th century the character of migration began to change and a 'new Diaspora' led by high skilled professionals moving to the western world and semi-skilled contract workers moving to the Gulf, West and South East Asia emerged.

The overseas Indian community thus 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 are amongst 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 residence and have added in considerable measure to knowledge and innovation.

The Ministry and its Mandate

The MOIA is the nodal Ministry for all matters relating to overseas Indians comprising Persons of Indian Origin (PIO), Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) and Overseas Citizens of India (OCI). The Mission is to promote, nurture and sustain a mutually beneficial and symbolic relationship between Indians and Overseas Indians. To achieve the mission, MOIA is guided by four key principles:

  • Offer customized solutions to meet the varied expectations of the overseas Indian community
  • Lend a strategic dimension to India's engagement with the Diaspora
  • Tap the investible diasporic community in terms of knowledge and resources
  • Anchor all diasporic initiatives in the States

MOIA has taken up a series of programmes/ initiatives for the betterment of the overseas Indian community.

Pravasi Bharatiya Divas

9th January is recognised as the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, as it was on this day in 1915 that Mahatama Gandhi returned to India from South Africa to launch what eventually became India's successful freedom struggle and inspiration to overseas Indians and people under colonial rule all over the world. The day is celebrated every year as part of Pravasi Bhartiya Divas (PBD) Convention. The PBD is the flagship event of the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs.

The sixth Pravasi Bharatiya Divas conference was organized at Chennai on 7- 9 January, 2009 in partnership with the Government of the National Capital Territory of Delhi and the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII). The Conference included 4 plenary sessions on 'India as Emerging Power: The Diaspora Factor', 'Reflections on Current Economic Crisis-Diaspora concerns'. 'Diaspora interaction with the States' and 'Indian Diaspora: Preservation of language and Culture'. Six Concurrent Sessions on "Building Bridges: Trade & Investment'. 'Diaspora Philanthropy', 'Education & Diaspora Knowledge Network'. Media & Entertainment'. 'Increased interaction with Diaspora Women' and Health for All; Role of Diaspora' and Regional Working Sessions on Gulf, Asia-pacific, Africa, America, Canada, Caribbean and Europe were also held as part of the Conference. Around 1800 delegates participated in the Conference from 54 countries of the world.

The Conference was inaugurated by the Hon'ble Prime Minister of India Dr. Manmohan Singh. Hon'ble President of India Smt. Pratibha Devisingh Patil, conferred the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Awards to 13 persons of Indian origin at the Valedictory Session on 9th January. The recipients of the PBSA were selected by a Jury-Cum-Awards Committee chaired by the Ho'ble Vice President of India.

The Vice President of Surinam H.E. Ramdieh Sard Joe was the Chief Guest for Pravasi Bharatiya Divas 2009.

Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Award (PBSA)

The Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Award (PBSA) is conferred as part of the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD) conferences that have been organized by the Government of India annually since 2003. PBSA is the highest honour conferred on overseas Indians.

As per the PBSA guidelines the Award shall be conferred on a Non Resident Indian (NRI), Person of Indian Origin (PIO) or a NRI/PIO organization/institution who has made:

  • Significant contribution towards better understanding abroad of India and support to India's causes and concerns in a tangible way
  • Significant contribution for the welfare of diaspora
  • Notable contribution in philanthropic and charitable work and for social and humanitarian causes in India and abroad
  • Significant contribution in building closer links between India and its diaspora in the economic, cultural and scientific fields
  • Eminence in one's field for outstanding work which has enhanced India's prestige in the country of residents.


Has achieved outstanding eminence in his skills which has enhanced India's prestige in that country (for non-professional workers).

Nominations for the PBSA can be made by the Heads of Indian Diplomatic Missions abroad, Chariman of the Standing Committee of the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs, Prominent Overseas associations with nation-wide character (as decided by the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs) and past awardees of PBSA.

81 persons of Indian origin and one PIO organization, namely, National Council of Indian Culture, Trinidad and Tobago have so far been conferred with the Award.


A mini PBD titled 'PBD Singapore' was organized on 9-11 October 2008 in Singapore in partnership with the Singapore Indian Chamber of Commerce & Industry (SICCI) and Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and support of the Government of Singapore. The tagline for the event was "PBD Singapore: Towards a Dynamic Indian Diaspora". President Mr. S.R. Nathan, Prime Minister Mr Lee Hsien Long, Deputy Prime Minister, Professor S. Jayakumar, Senior Minister Mr Goh Chok Tong. Minister Mentor Mr Lee Kuan Yew and Senior Minister of State, Mr. S. Iswaran of Singapore participated in the event. Prime Minister of Mauritius and senior ministers form Malaysia also participated apart from Cabinet Ministers Shri Kapil Sibal and Shri Vayalar Ravi.

A mini PBD titled "PBD Europe" is being organized in Netherlands on 19th September, 2009.

Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) Scheme

In response to persistent demands for 'dual citizenship' particularly from the Diaspora in North America and other developed countries and keeping in view the Government's deep commitment towards fulfilling the aspirations and expectations of Overseas Indians, the Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) Scheme was introduced by amending the Citizenship Act, 1955 in August 2005. The Schemes was launched during the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas 2006 at Hyderabad. The Scheme provides for registration as Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) of all Persons of Indian Origin (PIOs) who were citizens of India or were eligible to become citizens of India on 26th January, 1950 or thereafter except who is or had been a citizen of Pakistan, Bangladesh or such other country as the Central Government may, by notification in the Official Gazette, specify.

A registered Overseas Citizen of India is granted multiple entry, multipurpose, life-long visa for visiting India, he/she is exempted from registration with Foreign Regional Registration Officer or Foreign Registration Officer for any length of stay in India, and is entitled to parity with Non-Resident Indians in respect of all facilities available to them in economic, financial and educational fields except in matters relating to the acquisition of agricultural or plantation properties.

The Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs is empowered to notify grant of further benefits to OCIs. It has since notified that OCIs shall be treated at par with resident Indian nationals in the matter of tariffs in air fares in domestic sectors, within India, entry fees to visit national parks and wildlife sanctuaries in India and with Non-Resident Indian nationals in the matter of Inter-country adoption of Indian children.

Around 2, 81,000 persons of Indian origin have been registered as OCIs by middle of July, 2008. Since 5th January, 2009, OCIs have also been granted parity with non-resident Indians in respect of;

  • Entry fees for visiting the 3 national monuments, historical sites and museums in India
  • Practicing the following professions in India, in pursuance of the provisions contained in the relevant Acts, namely
    • doctors, dentists, nurses and pharmacist
    • advocates
    • architects
    • chartered accountants
  • Entitlement to appear for the All India Pre-Medical Test or such other tests to make them eligible for admission in pursuance of the provisions contained in the relevant Acts.

Respective Ministries/Departments/agencies of the Government of India have been requested to make necessary provision in their rules and regulations to give effect to the notification.

OCI is not to be misconstrued as a 'dual citizenship'. OCI does not confer political rights. Detailed instruction and procedures on the OCI Scheme are given in the MHA's website:

Around 4.56 lakh persons of Indian origin have been registered as OCIs upto 31st July, 2009.

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Source: National Portal Content Management Team Reviewed on: 18-03-2011