President Murmu announces relaxation in OCI norms for Indian diaspora in Suriname

The President stated that India stands with Suriname in solidarity and respect at this time when Suriname is honouring the legacy of its forefathers and its connections to India

June 06, 2023 02:38 pm | Updated 03:42 pm IST - Paramaribo, June 6

President Droupadi Murmu addresses a gathering at the Independence Square in Paramaribo on June 5, after receiving Suriname’s highest distinction, ‘Grand Order of the Chain of the Yellow Star’.

President Droupadi Murmu addresses a gathering at the Independence Square in Paramaribo on June 5, after receiving Suriname’s highest distinction, ‘Grand Order of the Chain of the Yellow Star’. | Photo Credit: ANI

President Droupadi Murmu has announced that India had decided to extend the eligibility criteria for obtaining an Overseas Citizen Of India card for Indian-origin immigrants in Suriname from the fourth generation to the sixth generation, marking their importance in the 150-year-old bilateral relationship.

Ms. Murmu made the announcement on June 5 while addressing a gathering at the Independence Square here after witnessing, along with her Suriname counterpart Mr. Chandrikapersad Santokhi, a cultural event on the occasion of the commemoration of 150 years of the arrival of Indians in Suriname.

The first ship — Lalla Rookh — carrying 452 Indian labourers arrived in Suriname’s capital Paramaribo on June 5, 1873. Most of the labourers hailed from eastern Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.

“Today, on this historic occasion, I am very pleased to announce at this forum that my government has approved extending the eligibility criteria for the Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) card from the fourth generation to the sixth generation,” said Ms. Murmu.

She said that the OCI card could be seen as an important link in the South-American nation’s 150-year-old relationship with India. She urged members of the Indian diaspora to continue to make efforts to maintain their connections with India.

Earlier, there was a limitation that OCI could be issued only to four generations of the original forefathers of the community who had migrated from India to Suriname. Consequently, many young members of the community belonging to the fifth and subsequent generations were deprived of this benefit.

"We are all gathered here today to celebrate the 150th Anniversary of the arrival of Indians in Suriname, an important milestone in the history of Suriname. On this occasion, I pay my respects to our ancestors, and I salute those that helped build this nation,” she said.

She said that as a multicultural society and as a land of opportunities, Suriname has welcomed all the varied communities that came and settled there. During these years, diverse communities evolved into one family and one country. She appreciated the people of Suriname for their dedication and commitment to unity and inclusiveness.

The President said she was happy to note that despite the vast geographical distances, the different time zones and cultural diversity, members of the Indian diaspora had remained attached to their roots.

Also Read: President Murmu meets Suriname counterpart; discusses ways to deepen bilateral partnership

She said there were many similarities between India, which is well known for its diversity, and Suriname. “The people of both countries could integrate very easily in each other’s societies. I feel like I am at my own home!” she said.

She said that over the last 150 years, the Indian community had not only become an integral part of society in Suriname but also constituted an important pillar of the deepening partnership between India and Suriname.

The President said that at a time when Suriname is celebrating the legacy of its ancestors and its links with India, India stands with Suriname in solidarity and reverence.

She said that both Suriname and India had made efforts to rebuild their economies and social systems after a long period of colonial rule and that this shared experience had created a feeling of solidarity between the two countries.

She said that India-Suriname bilateral relations are based on shared aspirations for development.

“It is my hope that in the days to come, the Indian community will continue to strengthen this relationship, and each and every individual among you will continue to act as a bridge between India and Suriname, connecting both countries. On this occasion, I invite all of you to come to India, to witness India’s development journey and to participate in it,” she said.

Earlier June 5, the President paid homage at the Baba and Mai monument, a symbolic representation of the first Indian man and woman, who first set foot in Suriname.

Also Read: President Murmu conferred with Suriname’s highest civilian award

Subsequently, she paid her respects at the Mama Sranan monument which represents Mama Sranan, the Mother of Suriname holding her five children, the five ethnicities that inhabit Suriname with care and affection.

She also attended a luncheon banquet hosted in her honour by the President of Suriname.

In her banquet speech, President Murmu underlined India’s approach to help create an inclusive world order that was sensitive to the legitimate interests and concerns of every country and region.

Ms. Murmu arrived in Suriname on June 4 on a three-day state visit, her first since assuming office in July, 2022.

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