The Government of India would do its best to address passport and visa-related concerns of the Indian diasporas but not at the cost of the security of the Indian population itself, according to Vayalar Ravi, Overseas Indian Affairs Minister.

Speaking to The Hindu at the end of a multi-stop tour of the United States, Mr. Ravi said that at many of the meetings he had attended, overseas Indians had complained repeatedly about a proposed hike in the fees — from $25 to $175 — for renouncing an Indian passport and taking up foreign citizenship.

According to reports there have been online petitions protesting against a recent notification by the Ministry of External Affairs that mandated that Persons of Indian Origin (PIOs) who had acquired foreign citizenship would have to surrender their old passports.

Media reports also said there had been resistance to proposed penalties for retaining the passport for above three years and for applicants for Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) cards or PIO cards claiming that their passport was lost or misplaced.

However striking a conciliatory tone Minister Ravi said that in his various meetings, including one at the Federation of Aligarh Alumni Associations of the U.S. in Chicago, he had promised to discuss these concerns further with the Indian Home Ministry.

Mr. Ravi told The Hindu that while in “the largest number of cases” the concerns were genuine, “a small number [of those who complained] may be asylum seekers who may not want to present their naturalisation documents”.

He added that he had in general suggested that overseas Indians assist the Government of India in protecting its citizens — particularly in the aftermath of the Mumbai attacks of 2008 — by abiding by passport and visa rules even when they were changed from time to time.

Keywords: Vayalar RaviPOIOCI