The Centre said on Friday that it has eased visa and travel restrictions imposed during the nationwide lockdown, for certain categories of Overseas Citizens of India cardholders stranded abroad. The lockdown has been in place since March 25 to limit the spread of the coronavirus, and is scheduled to end on May 31.
The Ministry of Home Affairs said in a notification that restrictions imposed via an earlier order “would not apply to any aircraft, ship, train or any other vehicle deployed to bring back OCI cardholders stranded abroad”.
The four categories of OCI cardholders allowed to return to India are:
- Minor children born to Indians abroad and holding OCI cards.
- OCI cardholders who wish to come to India on account of family emergencies such as deaths.
- Couples, of whom one is an OCI cardholder and the other an Indian citizen and they have permanent residence in India.
- University students who are OCI cardholders, have attained adulthood and whose parents are Indian citizens living in India.
Minister of State for External Affairs V Muraleedharan had on May 17 asked OCI cardholders to not worry about the temporary suspension of their long-term visas and assured them the government will soon take an “appropriate decision,”. He said that Prime Minister Modi, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and Home Minister Amit Shah were personally aware of their problems and they have “no doubt whatsoever about the Indianness” of the Indian diaspora.
The Indian diplomatic mission in the United States issues the largest number of OCI cards. On Thursday, Union minister Hardeep Singh Puri said that India has evacuated around 20,000 people stranded in other nations under the “Vande Bharat Mission”.
Launched in 2005, the Overseas Citizen of India card permits foreign citizens of Indian origin to stay in India indefinitely without having to follow registration requirements. They are granted certain limited rights that the central government notifies from time to time. They get a lifelong multiple entry visa to India and are treated at par with Non-Resident Indians in accessing economic and educational opportunities in India. But OCI card holders are not entitled to political rights. They are also not eligible to claim equality of opportunity for public employment under Article 16.
The total number of coronavirus cases in India crossed 1.18 lakh on Friday, and the toll went up to 3,583, according to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.